Saturday, August 15th, 2009...11:37 AM
What Do You Mean I Won’t Lose Weight if I Exercise?
Well, it depends. Everyone is talking about the “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” article in the most the recent issue of TIME Magazine.
Basically, they are right to a point. Many people tend to OVERestimate how many calories they burn during exercise and then UNDERestimate how many calories are in a Starbucks muffin. If you exercise without planning and eating regular, healthy meals, too, then you definitely have a high potential to have a net calorie increase, especially after a workout when you are hungry and will crave high-calorie foods. One important key is to eat a healthy high-carb snack about an hour to an hour-and-a-half before you workout and then take something with protein and carbs WITH YOU to eat immediately afterward. This can help curb any extreme hunger pangs that can sidetrack your weight loss goals.
This is actually a decent article because it doesn’t downplay the many benefits of exercise. I’ve seen other articles that say the same thing and then say you DON’T need to exercise at all. Uh, no. I think the take-away message is that we really do have to pay attention to what we eat if we want to lose weight. I believe that exercise, from gardening to triathlons, plays an important role in successful weight loss and maintenance, but calorie burning may not be exercise’s most critical advantage. Exercise can help you keep your motivation as you change the way you eat, will definitely help you look your toned best as you slim down, and will elevate your mood and help you feel good about taking good care of your heart and the rest of you. It’s all about finding the realistic balance the works for you and being TRULY self-aware.
I wanted to update my blog post to include the stance of the American College of Sports Medicine (see below). I get what they say, and I do think some of what the TIME article says is misleading, but I still think the article has some merits, and when we think about the obesity epidemic in this country, I don’t want to dismiss the author’s points out of hand.
We really need to consider the role of weight loss in the context of our American culture. We live in a culture that is mired in such a vicious cycle of fast food, huge portions, and a lack of time to prepare healthy meals (and a lack of understanding regarding calories burned/consumed when exercising/eating) that I think there are many people who DO eat more calories than they burn when they are exercising. They barely have time to go to the gym, and they stop off at Sonic to grab a bite after their workout because they are starving. I THINK THIS HAPPENS! Am I crazy?
I don’t think it is the gym rats who are eating a boiled egg and an orange after their workout who have this problem. I tend to think it is the average person. The average person has an on-again, off-again relationship with exercise (though they may be “regulars” when they are in an exercise phase), typically with weight loss as the main goal. I think these are the people with whom that TIME article hits home.
Read the following, and let me know more about what YOU think.
The Message Points: Exercise and Energy Balance
Exercise and Weight Management
- There is strong evidence from the majority of the scientific literature that physical activity is an important component of an effective weight loss program.
- Physical activity is one of the most important behavioral factors in weight maintenance and improving long-term weight loss outcomes. In fact, participation in an exercise program has proven to be the very best predictor of maintaining weight that was lost.
- Effective weight loss and maintenance depend on a simple equation called energy balance: Calories expended through physical activity and normal lifestyle functions must exceed calories consumed.
- It is a myth that exercise can actually prevent weight loss by leading exercisers to overeat. Research and common sense disprove this notion. Look around the gym or the jogging trail. If this were the case, wouldn’t those who regularly exercise be the fattest?
Other Benefits of Exercise
- Exercise and physical activity have been proven to help prevent chronic conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, obesity and diabetes.
- Studies show that when students are more active (through physical education, classroom activity, play, etc.) they improve test scores and attendance and experience fewer discipline problems and sick days.
Policy and economic implications
- Physical activity and exercise are key components of workplace wellness programs, which have been shown to return $2.90 to $5.96 in cost savings for every dollar invested by the employer. Participants in workplace wellness programs have reduced absenteeism, error rates and health care costs; they feel more alert, have better rapport with co-workers, and enjoy their work more.
- Physical activity and exercise must play a vital role in health system reform. Cost savings from healthy lifestyles can help fund broader coverage for the underserved.
- Stimulus funds designated for electronic medical records should include fields to record each patient’s physical activity level. Exercise IS medicine and should be measured as a vital sign like blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
- Reimbursement for services such as healthy lifestyle counseling or clinical exercise physiologists could go a long way toward improving health and reducing health care costs.
- Physical activity needn’t involve expensive equipment, gym memberships or team athletics. Simple activities like walking, accumulated in 10-minute bouts, can have significant benefits.
- Communities can do much to encourage physical activity by developing bike paths and walking trails, encouraging walkable neighborhoods, opening school facilities to after- school activities, and enacting other exercise-friendly policies.
About the Author:
Chris Heidel is the owner and primary personal trainer with Libra Fitness in Austin, TX, a private, in-home studio. Chris focuses her business on developing mentoring relationships with her clients built on trust and meaningful support to help them set, achieve, and maintain realistic fitness goals. Chris truly believes that while getting in shape isn’t easy, it doesn’t have to be complicated. Chris is certified through the American Council on Exercise.
Photo by dafalias