Stop focusing on exercise for weight loss


Sunday, August 05, 2018

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“I have been going to the gym and I'm still not losing weight” or “I had a little extra to eat so I went to the gym last night, but I still gained weight”. There are possibly hundreds of variations of these statements which I have heard, yet people continue to believe exercise obliterates fat, in spite of the nominal to inconsistent to zero results.

Seriously, if you have been thinking this way, stop! That thinking is distracting and creates disappointment. Okay, you may still ask, can't you use exercise to lose weight? The short answer is no — that's it. As better trainers are saying nowadays, you cannot train away a bad diet; I would go further to say you cannot train away a mediocre diet.

The basic truth holds up, the amount of fat you store or use up is directly related to the number of calories you ingest versus the number of calories you expend. So, the thinking is, to exercise I must expend more calories than if I sit at home doing nothing. Therefore, I must be burning more calories and must be burning more fat. Whereas this is true, there are many more factors at play. We will examine a few.

Energy expenditure

This is the sum of your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is, in numbers, how many calories your body expends just to perform your basic functions (this does not include any activity) and the energy you expend in physical activity.

Your BMR is an energy monster and can consume 70 to 90 per cent of your total energy expenditure. This leaves only 10 to 30 per cent for physical activity, thus any exercise will be only a small portion of this 10 to 30 per cent. There are exceptions to this of course, like competitive athletes who train four to eight hours per day. So, if you fall in this group, this article is not for you.

Some obesity researchers and mathematicians have created a scale which show that even a grown male exercising one hour per day, four days per week, without changing the number of calories exactly required to maintain his weight, may lose five pounds, after an entire month. Is this positive or negative?

Unfortunately, the following will happen:

1. Exercising more than 30 to 45 minutes will increase hunger and motivate added calorie intake;

2. Hormonal changes will make your body more efficient and burn even less calories to do the same work;

3. Your body will become physically adapted to the movement, allowing it to accomplish the same tasks with increasingly less effort, which will be increasingly difficult to maintain with age.

So, to summarise:

Unless you are a professional athlete training four to eight hours per day, you will not burn enough calories to make a real difference.

Any difference the activity makes will, after a certain amount of effort, also make a difference in your appetite while eating.

Your body will become more efficient over time, causing those already little results to diminish.

Depending on exercise for fat loss will be even less significant over years.

So why exercise?

Even a perfect diet is not the panacea for complete wellness. You will need exercise to maintain and gain muscle mass and provide the strength you will need for daily activities, with some in reserve as your years go by. As far as weight loss is concerned, the general fitness mindset and discipline can add significantly to your wellness lifestyle and goal.

Here is where the real overlap for fat loss exists. Remember always that exercise serves you and the bigger picture of your life's functionality.

Exercise will also:

• Increase cardiac health and function;

• Regulate blood pressure and heart rate;

• Improve brain health;

• Maintain balance and mobility, reducing fall injury probability;

• Increase and maintain bone strength;

• Improve joint strength and health;

• Counter depression;

• Improve sleep;

• …and so much more.

In the same way you should think of healthy eating as a way of life and not as a diet, you need to think of exercise as more than just a means to a short-term goal, but rather as a preventive measure and as an enhancement of your well-being.

Fitz-George Rattray is the director of Intekai Academy, which is focused on helping people live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and weight management. If you are interested in losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, give them a call at 968-8238, or visit their website at

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