Exercise isn’t the best way to lose weight
We have this idea that if we want to lose weight, we join a gym on January 1st, we start working out regularly, and eventually well slim down.
Well, here’s some bad news. I read more than sixty studies on this, and it turns out exercise is actually pretty useless when it comes to weight loss. Dr.
Kevin Hall at the National Institutes of Health has done some of the most important studies on exercise and weight loss we need to rebrand exercise … exercise isn’t a weight-loss tool per se, it’s excellent for health is probably the best single thing that you can do other than stopping smoking to improve your health. It’s just not the best way to lose weight.
And the reason has to do with how our bodies use energy. You may not realize it, but physical activity is actually a tiny component of your daily energy burn. There are three main ways our bodies burn calories.
These include your resting metabolism, so that’s how much energy your body burns just for its basic functioning, just to keep you alive, basically. The other part of energy expenditure is the thermic effect of food, and that’s just how much energy is required to break food down in your body. The third part of energy expenditure is physical activity.
For most people, physical activity – that’s a movement you do, only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of energy use. So the vast majority of energy or calories you burn every day comes from your basal or resting metabolism, over which you have very little control. While 100% of your “calories in” are up to you, only up to about 30% One study found that if a 200-pound man ran for an hour, 4 days a week for a month, he’d lose about 5 pounds at most, assuming everything else stays the same.
Researchers have found we make all kinds of behavioral and physiological adaptations when we start increasing the amount of exercise we’re getting every day. For one thing, exercise tends to make people hungry. And I’m sure you know the feeling: you go for a spinning class in the morning, and then by the time you eat breakfast you’re so hungry you maybe double the
There’s also evidence to suggest that some people simply slow down after a workout, so if you went running in the morning you might be less inclined to take the stairs at work. These are called “compensatory behaviors” — the various ways we unknowingly undermine our workouts.
Researchers have also discovered a phenomenon called metabolic compensation.
They went out into the middle of the Savannah in Tanzania to measure the energy burn among a group of hunter-gathers called the Hadza. These are super-active, lean hunter-gatherers.
You’d have to spend about an hour dancing pretty vigorously to burn off three glasses of wine you might drink with dinner. An hour of cycling really intensely on exercise bikes to burn off about two doughnuts. That’s why exercise is best seen as a healthy supplement for a strategy that’s focused on food.
But despite extremely high obesity rates in the US, government agencies continue to present exercise as a solution… as do companies with a real interest in making sure we keep Since the 1920s, companies like Coca-Cola have been aligning themselves with the exercise message. The idea here is that you can drink all these extra bottles of soda as long as you workout.
Public health policymakers should really prioritize improving our food environment to help people make healthier choices about what they eat.