Health & Wellbeing

Exercise alone won’t help you lose weight, research finds

Healthy food and weights on a blue table

Exercise alone won’t help you lose weight, new research reported in the Journal of Current Biology, published by Cell Press, has revealed.

The research discovered that our bodies naturally adapt to higher levels of activity, so people who exercise for longer don’t necessarily burn more calories. 

The researchers analysed the daily energy expenditure of over 300 men and women over seven days. They initially found a weak, but measurable, effect on exercise and daily energy expenditure, yet when they examined it further, they found that this was only true of the participants who had low levels of activity. Participants with moderate activity levels had slightly higher energy expenditures than those with low activity levels, and in addition to this, people who had higher activity levels saw no effect of their extra work in terms of energy expenditure. 

Humans have evolved to respond to big changes to survive, similar to how we conserve fat when we drastically reduce our calories intake. Your body will simply adapt to the higher level of exercise, which means you won’t necessarily burn more calories than you would doing moderate exercise. 

You can’t out train a bad diet

With this in mind, the key to long-term weight loss is maintaining a healthy diet. 

We need to be conscious that we aren’t relying on exercise as a way of ‘cancelling out’ poor food choices, as this will cause us to continue to crave unhealthy food in the future. Plus, as the research revealed, it doesn’t actually work, as your body learns to adapt to the higher level of exercise. Not to mention the fact that strenuous exercise actually increases your appetite, so you will consume more calories anyway. 

Good eating habits should be part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, which starts with small changes that don’t restrict you. Think about including more nutritious food in your diet, such as fruits, nuts and vegetables, as opposed to stripping food from your diet.  

Opt for fresh and unprocessed foods in their most natural form and always try and prepare your meals from scratch. It pays to plan ahead, so invest in some plastic lunchboxes and dedicate a couple of nights a week to prepare all of your meals in advance. 

Exercise plays an important role in health  

Despite the research, this does not mean that exercise is any less important for our health.

While diet may be more important when it comes to weight loss, exercise is vital for cardiovascular fitness and preventing serious illnesses such as heart disease, so it is paramount that everyone continues to exercises regularly. 

Physical activity also has a huge impact on mental health, as it releases endorphins and helps to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. While short-burst of high-intensity-interval training have soared in popularity recently, Alex Lawrence, industry development officer at Exercise and Sports Science Australia said that some people may get more mental benefits from longer sessions of moderate activity. 

Diet and moderate exercise are the key to success

The research is certainly interesting, and suggests that we need to stop rewarding ourselves with food just because we have had a gruelling workout. However, it doesn’t mean that we should start reducing our levels of exercise, as physical activity has many health benefits besides weight loss. 

As a society, we should be focusing more on the exercises and physical activity that we enjoy doing the most, rather than those which will burn the most calories, as a strategy to sustain a healthier and longer life. Sign up for Amaven today for to give your clients a fitter, healthier future. 

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