Are you familiar with the show ‘The Biggest Loser’? We often watch it together as a family and I think that the show has inspired some people to get started on their weight loss journey. I know some people don’t like the show because of the way the participants are pushed to exercise, but I think this kind of inspiration can be positive.
There is one aspect of the show I don’t really like. Everything is about exercising more. The truth is that you can lose weight by changing the way you eat even if you don’t work out.
It’s all about your energy balance. A person who is eating 1,000 more calories than they are burning during the day will end up with a positive balance and store fat. You should know that exercising does not burn as many calories as you think. Running for half an hour will only burn 350 calories. A lot of people simply don’t have the time to exercise for thirty minutes a day or lack the motivation. People who work out do so two or three times a week.
Most workout regimens burn as many calories as you could get rid off by not drinking two 16-ounce sodas a day.
Every fitness blog or health-oriented TV show claims that people don’t get enough exercise. And people tend to blame the current obesity statistics on the fact that schools no longer offer gym classes. Programs like the Let’s Move initiative developed by Michelle Obama make exercising and activity the central component of any weight loss program.
It is true that there are a lot of benefits associated with exercising regularly. However, exercising is not a good approach to losing weight. The general idea that Americans aren’t active enough is simply not true. Between 2001 and 2009, the number of people who got enough exercise went up. However, the number of Americans who are considered as obese also went up for the same time frame. More exercise does not prevent obesity.
Several studies have confirmed that exercise does not prevent obesity. A meta-analysis was combined in 2011 and showed that activity in children did not necessarily prevent these children from being overweight. When it comes to adults, someone who is active on a regular basis is less likely to gain weight compared to someone who has a more inactive lifestyle. Studies that look at energy balance have shown physical activity levels and total energy expenditure tend to be similar in developed countries. This means that exercising and being active are not the cause of the obesity rate.
Exercising burns calories, which means you are going to feel hungry after a workout. Studies have shown that exercising can lead to a higher caloric intake. A systematic review of these studies was compiled in 2012 and showed that on the long-term, the individuals who followed an exercise program ended up burning fewer calories than predicted and ended up eating more.
Losing weight causes your metabolism to slow down. It is a common belief that being active will cause your metabolism to speed up. Studies have shown that the metabolic rate of individuals who lose weight goes down, regardless of how active they are. Losing weight can be easy at first but burning more calories becomes difficult once your metabolic rate goes down.
Exercising can play a role in weight loss. Several studies have shown that exercising regularly is beneficial for one’s health and weight. A review compiled in 1999 showed that exercising helps people lose weight but that this change is small.
A more recent meta-analysis showed that weight loss programs that include nutritional changes and regular exercise leads to a greater weight loss on the long-term compared to programs that include dieting alone. The difference was typically between three and four pounds. However, exercising on top of dieting didn’t make any difference over a six months period. Another recent study found that dieting and exercising were more efficient than dieting alone but that the difference was fairly small.
All these studies looked at the effects of dietary changes. They found that exercising besides dieting only lead to slightly better results. A lot of people find the time to go workout for an hour but find that they do not have the time to prepare a healthy home-cooked meal after their day of work. These people would probably get better results with their weight loss program if they spent more time cooking rather than exercising.
A lot of people think that making dietary changes is going to be drastic and are afraid to gain weight once they stop. You will get better results if you implement gradual changes and look for new habits that you can implement on the long-term. Dieting is not necessarily easier than working out regularly. Making changes to one’s lifestyle is never easy. Dietary change will lead to better weight loss results, but you will probably have to deal with the drawbacks of an increased appetite and slower metabolism in both cases.
I think that exercising has several health benefits other than weight loss. Several studies have shown that exercising regularly reduces your risks of developing neurological problems, cardiovascular conditions, musculoskeletal disorders, pulmonary disease and depression. I don’t like the term “miracle” but the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges made a point by comparing exercising to a “miracle cure”. There is a lot of evidence showing that exercising is good for your health and you should do it regularly.
However, exercising doesn’t seem to have a direct positive impact on weight loss. There is no data that supports this idea. A lot of people get excited about exercise programs and decide to work out in an effort to lose weight. I think one of my friends summed things up when they remarked that ‘The Biggest Loser’ would not be an exciting show if it was about the contestants adopting healthier diets.