For a long time now, we’ve been told that exercising is the key to losing weight.
The ‘calories in and calories out’ approach says that we have to keep burning what we eat, and the more we burn and sweat, the more weight we lose.
This messaging is put out there by apps, fitness gurus, celebrities and Instagram influencers who’ve made various workout routines popular, which have only gotten more popular during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
However, recent studies have made it clear that people cannot simply indulge in food and then expect to lose the weight through exercise alone.
In fact, research has shown that exercise by itself is almost ineffective when it comes to weight loss.
Why exercise is not the key to weight loss?
Research from several experts in the field of obesity says that we can only burn a fraction of the calories we consume through exercise.
Additionally, studies support the fact that exercise really only accounts for a small portion of our daily calorie burn.
The truth is, there are a lot of different aspects that go into our body’s energy expenditure.
Most people don’t realize that we burn calories through other activities outside of exercise, like reading, cleaning, or even just sitting down and resting.
Calorie consumption isn’t just about physical activity – it’s also about the energy our bodies use to perform vital functions like regulating our temperature, breathing, blood flow, and digestion.
Hence, we have to understand that vigorous workouts only account for a tiny portion of our total energy expenditure. What does this mean?
This means that more workouts do not necessarily equal increased weight loss. Unfortunately, spending hours at the gym might not yield better results.
There’s a lot we don’t know about weight gain and weight loss. We know that there are a lot of factors that can affect it, like genetics, lifestyle, environment, diet, etc.
And we know that different people seem to respond differently to different approaches.
That’s why there are so many forums full of people talking about their weight-loss journey being slowed down or even reversed after a few months of success.
We’re still trying to figure out what really works for different people.
Exercising can effect different people in different ways, for example, some people may overindulge in what are known as “compensatory behaviors.”
This occurs when people who have exercised hard feel hungrier and eat more to satisfy their hunger, which means more calorie intake that cancels out any benefits of the workout.
Some people overestimate the calories they have burned and gorge on food as a reward mechanism.
These are all natural ways for our bodies to unconsciously make up for the calories it has burned.
Diet is the most important component of weight loss, but unfortunately many countries are losing the plot when it comes to messaging about healthy eating.
In the US and India, where obesity rates are growing at a alarming pace, we need to do a better job of promoting healthy eating habits.
Exercise apps, gym instructors, and fitness centres seem to be everywhere, and they all promise that we can exercise away our weight if we just try hard enough.
However, the reality is that we are eating more than ever before, and unless we make a change, we will keep going in a cycle of eating more and exercising more without ever really achieving true health.
Should exercise, then, be completely discarded?
No, physical activity is not just good for the mind and body, it is essential for maintaining good heart health and also helps to promote a healthy weight.
However, when it comes to weight loss, we have to see it for what it is – a small part of a larger process where the main role is played by dietary changes.
Exercising has a plethora of benefits, but weight loss is not its primary purpose.
For those looking to lose weight, the best way to create a calorie deficit is by making sensible alterations to their diets.
This includes reducing refined carbs, lessening sugars, and increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables.
By changing what we eat and how much we eat, we can begin to shed those extra kilos and kick-start a journey towards health.