Why Exercise Doesn't Help With Weight Loss

A regular exercise routine just isn't enough to help you lose weight, according to a new report from health scientists at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Dr. Amy Luke and Dr. Richard S. Cooper have been researching how physical activity is related to obesity for several years, initially hypothesizing there would be an association between exercise and weight loss over time.

They did not find this to be true, however. Moreover, they argue that public health messages that advocate being more active - and the idea this activity alone can combat weight gain - are not serving anyone.

"Physical activity is crucially important for improving overall health and fitness levels, but there is limited evidence to suggest that it can blunt the surge in obesity," they wrote in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Calories are key

The study cited specific examples of why exercise is not the best way to approach weight loss. For starters, clinical trials suggest that exercise and calorie restriction produce the same results as calorie restriction alone when it comes to weight loss.

The authors also pointed to evidence that observational studies don't show a link between energy expenditure and weight changes, and that high energy expenditure - or excessive exercise - is not enough to affect long-term changes in weight.

The main factor involved when it comes to weight loss is calorie restriction, the authors said. And the reason even avid exercisers can't lose weight is usually that they overcompensate by eating more food, as increased activity can increase one's appetite.

"The prescription needs to be precise," the authors wrote. "There is only one effective way to lose weight - eat fewer calories."

Source: Loyola University Health System
Image courtesy of photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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