The Truth About Exercise and Weight Loss

At Optimal Fitness at Good Shepherd’s Health & Technology Center, we offer a free one-hour assessment/personal training session to all new fitness members. Part of the assessment involves asking individuals what their goals are for attending the fitness center. The number one answer and often the only answer is "weight loss."

I wish I could tell you that working out is the magic key to weight loss. However, contrary to popular belief, exercise alone does not burn enough calories to produce significant weight loss. You need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories in order to lose one pound. A 150 pound man burns only about 100 calories for every mile walked or run. The truth is that dietary changes are responsible for approximately 80 percent of weight loss, and so the secret of losing weight begins with changing eating habits. 

Why Exercise?

While restricting calories is the most important part of any weight loss plan, exercise offers a variety of benefits. Our bodies burn calories constantly, even when we're at rest. This calorie burn, or resting metabolic rate, is much higher in people who exercise and who have more muscle.

There are two reasons for this. First, every pound of muscle uses six calories a day to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two pounds a day. Additionally, after an individual reaches a certain level of fitness, he or she essentially trains the body to burn fat more efficiently. 

Another benefit of exercise is that it is something you can actively do for yourself, so it can help you to feel more in control. Exercise is a mood enhancer, which improves body image and your chances of weight loss success. Additionally, by increasing muscle, exercise redistributes body mass, causing fat to burn faster.

Diet Myths

Unfortunately, some people think that they can eat anything they want if they exercise, so they sabotage their diet as soon as they begin an exercise program. However, by combining diet and exercise, you can speed your weight loss.

Some people believe that more exercise will lead to better results. Actually, the opposite can be true, since overdoing exercise leads to muscle breakdown and overuse injuries, which will ultimately hinder your efforts.

Exercise plays a role in losing weight, but reducing caloric intake is the most significant factor. It’s also important to look at your total lifestyle, since quantity and quality of sleep as well as stress can affect your weight. The best weight loss plan consists of eating healthfully, minimizing portions, increasing physical activity and changing lifestyle strategies to create a successful balance.  

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