Is it really important to exercise in order to lose and keep the weight off?
One more take on the Time magazine article claiming that exercise is “useless” for weight loss. Anyone who has lost weight and kept it off would agree that this statement was taken out of context and is generally false. This article specifically pointed to aerobic exercise, but failed to address the effects of strength training and its role in increasing muscle lean muscle mass. Increased muscle tissue increases metabolism, thus burning calories at a higher rate during exercise and at rest. Studies of strength training and weight loss show great variability in participants’ weight loss or weight gain. Some lose lots of weight, some show a slight gain.
The large majority of exercise studies point to a loss of appetite with regular exercise. What are the exceptions? If you are of normal weight and increase your daily activity, your appetite can increase to meet increased calorie demand. Also there individuals who are “compensators”; those who reward their efforts in the gym or on the trails by raiding the fridge. Others overestimate the amount of calories they actually burn during exercise. If you find yourself gaining weight while on a healthy, balanced, rigorous exercise routine, you are most likely eating too much.
The simple concept of “move more, eat less” is the magic bullet to weight loss and long term fitness and health.
More on the importance of strength training…. Resistance training has been shown to be crucial in accelerating fat loss. During dieting, approximately 1/3 of weight lost is from muscle tissue. Since muscle is highly correlated with metabolism, consistent dieting gradually lowers resting metabolic rate, making further weight loss difficult to impossible. Cardiovascular exercise does little to preserve lean body tissue. Lifting weights, however, not only attenuates the decline in metabolism, it can actually increase it.
Perhaps most importantly, what the Time article seems to completely ignore is the fact that exercise has been shown to be extremely important for maintenance of goal weight after weight loss. Clearly, those who exercise, show an improved ability to sustain lower levels of body weight and avoid weight regain after dieting. And ultimately the most important aspect of weight loss shouldn’t simply be to lose the weight, but rather to keep it off over the long haul.
Summing up, there is compelling evidence that exercise is not only a beneficial aspect of any weight loss program, but it’s crucial in long-term weight maintenance. Despite what you might have read in Time, don’t ditch your gym membership just yet…at least if you want to stay lean! A good combination between strength training and aerobic exercise is the best path to overall health and weight management.