Make no mistake about it, regular exercise offers many benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:
1. Regular exercise helps in the prevention and management if many diseases including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression, some types of cancer and joint problems. As little as 30 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week goes a long way toward keeping us healthy.
2. Exercise lifts mood. Ever heard of runner’s high? Believe me, it is real!
3. Exercise improves your energy level, promotes better sleep and improves your overall sense of well being.
4. Exercise can be a great tool to help prevent regaining weight after weight loss.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that exercise ALONE is not a very good weight loss tool. I cannot tell you how many patients over the years have come in requesting to have their thyroid function tested because they have been diligently exercising but unable to see the numbers on the scale go down. I have even had this happen to fitness instructors! As I shared in a previous blog, I managed to gain weight while training for and run/walking a half marathon a month over the last couple of years. The truth of the matter is that you cannot outrun your fork with exercise alone.
Here is the skinny on exercising for weight loss.
Let’s say you burn 700 calories in a 1 hour spin class. Later that day you go out with your girls to a birthday celebration. Surely it should be ok to have a margarita or two after that hard workout, right? As this illustration shows, those two drinks alone will replace those calories before you even order dinner. It will be as if you never worked out at all.
Here’s another illustration for my running friends:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one speaks volumes. In reality, exercise only accounts for about 10 to 30 percent of our energy expediture in a given day. If the workout has been particularly strenuous, it is likely to decrease our activity for the rest of the day because we are so tired. The other factor that makes strenuous exercise ineffective for weight loss is that it makes us hungrier!!! We are notoriously bad at over estimating how much more we should eat after exercise. In addition, our bodies adapt to our level of physical activity through metabolic compensation and the same amount of effort causes you to burn fewer calories over time.
It is well documented that those 10% of people who have lost weight and kept it off for at least a year did so by initially restricting their caloric intake and exercising moderately and that they continued to do both over the long run. We have to keep in mind that as we get smaller, our Basic Metabolic Rate (the calories we burn at rest) decreases by at least 100 calories for every 10 pounds we lose. That means that if you lost down from 200 lbs to 150, you cannot go back to eating the number of calories it took to keep you at 200! This is key to weight regain. This is where continuing to exercise once we have lost weight becomes important. If we return to our pre-weight loss eating habits and stop exercising, we are destined to regain the weight and may even gain more!
Successful lifetime weight management is not one size fits all. Those who are successful at keeping weight off long term have found a way to limit their caloric intake in a way that allows them to enjoy healthy foods over the highly processed, high carbohydrate, high fat and salty foods that make us overweight in the first place. They also continue to exercise at least moderately most days of the week. It is those who are willing to adopt this as a forever lifestyle who ultimately win in the struggle to maintain a healthy weight.
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” 3 John 1:2 NLT