Just A Sliver Of Pecan Pie: How Much Exercise To Undo The Calories?

With elevated blood sugar (pre-diabetes), or with type 2 diabetes losing five to ten percent of our body weight can improve glucose numbers.

For individuals with pre-diabetes that five to ten percent weight loss lowers the risk of type 2 onset by 58 percent.

The Exercise Factor

Our blood sugar numbers improve even more with regular exercise, and exercise is an important factor for weight loss. Most of us lose weight if we burn more calories than we consume, and physical activity boosts calorie consumption.

However, research suggests many of us think exercise rids us of more calories than it actually does. So, while we need to stay active, we cannot rely on movement alone to prevent or eliminate excess stores of fat.

For instance, an individual weighing 160 pounds (73 kg) would have to:


  • Enjoy downhill skiing for 55 minutes to burn off a couple 12 oz. Heineken beers (296 calories).
  • Spend an hour on an elliptical trainer, at moderate pace, to eliminate the 362 calories of a Dressed Baked Potato with butter at Outback Steakhouse. However, a medium home-baked potato with butter, about 250 calories, would only require about 40 elliptical minutes.
  • Bicycle leisurely for an hour (and ballroom dance for an hour to wipe out the 503 calories of a very moderate pecan pie slice (1/8 of a 9” homemade pie).
  • Golf for an hour, carrying the clubs, and perform 60 minutes of low-impact aerobics to burn the fuel provided by a Grilled Reuben Melt at Culver’s (669 calories).
  • Take a 50 minute walk at 3.5 mph to undo the 260 calories in a cup of Breyers Natural Vanilla ice cream.
  • Engage in water aerobics for an hour to use up 408 calories from an index card-sized piece of homemade beef lasagna (4.5 x 3.25 x 2).
  • Run 45 to 50 minutes at five mph to melt away the 465 calories in Ruby Tuesday’s side order of Mac n’ Cheese.

It’s easy to see that what we eat at each meal, and how much, has a greater effect on weight loss than exercise, especially since few of us exercise more than 30 minutes daily. However, physical activity may have a more substantial effect in preventing regain after we lose weight.


One Coin, Two Sides

Losing weight is, of course, not the only reason to exercise—even slender individuals need to be active. Our bodies require movement and weight bearing for glucose and fat utilization, strong bones, adequate muscle mass, and cardiovascular health.

So, just as we can’t rely on exercise for weight loss, we cannot rely on a healthy diet to keep our body fit. Good food and lots of movement are both necessary for glucose control, and overall well-being.

Sources: Calorie King; Mayo Clinic; Johns Hopkins Medicine; Ainsworth BE, et al. 2011 compendium of physical activities: A second update of codes and MET values. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011;43:1575.
Photo credit: Sagie


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