There is no question that engaging in a regular exercise regimen affords innumerable health benefits. From cardiovascular strength to staving off osteoporosis, or fighting diabetes to supporting brain function, exercise is necessary to keep everything working optimally. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
Additionally, exercise not only prevents disease, but it can also help reverse it (1).
Designed to Move
Regular exercise helps to maintain and lose weight, however, it might surprise you to know that studies have shown that increased amounts of exercise alone are not enough to sustain weight loss.
It makes sense that the more calories you burn, the less your body will store as fat.
So if you’re not going to count on exercise to lose fat, you’ll have to lower your calorie intake.
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How Fat is Formed
Regular exercise without change to your diet will initially increase your metabolism and cause you to lose weight; however, over time, your overall metabolism will balance and slow down to readjust to your body’s needs. After all, fat serves as energy storage, so your body will eventually want to hold on to it as much as possible (2).
For long-term weight loss and to prevent gaining the weight back, what you eat counts for a lot more than what you do, since the more you exercise, the hungrier you become and the more likely you are to revert to old habits (3).
Oddly enough, the more time people make for working out and being at the gym, the less time they spend in the kitchen and the more likely they are to choose quick and convenient options like frozen meals or takeout.
An hour’s worth of moderate aerobic exercise will burn around 450 calories. That’s the same amount of calories as two cans of Coca-Cola and a small bag of potato chips.
Studies like one published in Population Health Metrics in 2013 show:
“…increased physical activity alone has a small impact on obesity prevalence at the county level in the US. Indeed, the rise in physical activity levels will have a positive independent impact on the health of Americans as it will reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Other changes such as reduction in caloric intake are likely needed to curb the obesity epidemic and its burden.”(4).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years (5).
There is no doubt that part of that equation is the advent of the electronic age and the reduction in regular physical activity in children. Parents have also become so paranoid about the safety of their children that they encourage “safe” indoor activities. An even larger factor, it seems, is what they’re eating and drinking rather than their lack of physical activity alone (6).
Convenience-based processed and fast foods widely available in American homes and schools are stuffed with sugar, unhealthy fats, chemical additives, and empty calories.
Studies of adults show similar correlations: in 2010, a meta-analysis comparing physical activity in industrialized versus developing nations, vis–à–vis their national obesity rates, found that increased exercise didn’t make much of a difference (7).
A package of anything off a grocery store shelf is by definition “processed”, albeit in varying degrees.
Walk down the snack aisle and see how many ingredients go into making a shelf-stable cookie or granola bar. In The Dorito Effect published last year, the author explains that food manufacturers add chemicals to basic food ingredients to add flavor for two reasons:
- If it tastes good, people eat more of it and,
- farming practices have changed so much in the last 60 years that basic food doesn’t taste like it used to, which is a reflection of its nutritional content.
To take the first step in your weight loss journey, start by getting rid of all processed foods in your home : if you aren’t familiar with an ingredient on the label, throw it out! Don’t just cut out unhealthy food, real the labels on “health” foods like gluten-free crackers and fruit juice.