Exercise and weight loss

There are many ways to lose weight:

  • surgery
  • diet
  • illness
  • and yes , you can lose some by exercise

Weight loss with exercise difficult

The trouble is that most of us mere mortals cannot just lose the weight by exercise. You would have to be a professional athlete whose job is to exercise to get to the level of weight loss you are thinking of. Look at American football players—they are not thin! They carry plenty of weight.
First we must understand that weight loss or gain means loss or gain of calories. We take in calories by eating and we spend them by living. We burn variable amounts of calories based on our activity levels.
For example, we burn more calories:

  • when we sleep than when we’re awake
  • when standing than when sitting
  • when playing racket ball than when walking
The number of calories spent doing each activity has been measured by learned scientists. For our purposes, we should know that exercising full blast with your heart rate at 120 and sweat pouring over your face uses 6 cal/minute. One hour of heavy exercise and you have lost 360 calories—and it is unlikely that you can do more than that (especially if you are reading or writing this article). Like I tell all my patients, one hour of exercise and you lose 360 calories, and one gin and tonic gives you 240 calories right back!Exercise is not a good way to lose weight unless you are going to do it all day long.What is better to lose weight is to eat less.

Confusion over weight loss

When we say we want to lose weight, we are not really saying what we want or what we think.
Weight loss, for most of us, means having a nice firm body with no extra flab and fat. We don’t want to just lose weight on the scale; we want a better figure.
The biggest moment of a light bulb going off in my head was when I was reading the instruction manual that came with my body-fat -measuring calipers. This plastic instrument has two arms whose tips come together to pinch your skin in different areas of the body. The reading then correlates with a number for percentage body fat when compared to a chart.The manual showed a diagram of a muscular person and one of a fat person. They both weighed the same—210lbs. However, the muscular figure had a much lower percentage of fat (20%) than the fat figure (45%). Yet they both weighed the same! So what’s going on ?

Advantages of exercise

The muscular figure weighs the same but has a lower body fat percentage. What exercise does is not reduce our weight but instead give us more muscle and hence a lower body fat percentage. You don’t lose weight, you just change what is being weighed!

The problem is that with age our percentage of body fat increases and muscle mass decreases (unless we are doing physical jobs like farm labor). Even though you may weigh the same at 50 as you did at 20, your percentage of body fat is probably double what it was when you were younger and you “look” fat… or are fat.Exercise also:

  • Improves our heart function
  • Decreases our cholesterol
  • Improves our brain function
  • Improves our longevity
  • Enhances our circulation

So, exercise is obviously VERY good for you. It’s just not a great way to lose weight.

Just eat less if that is your goal. See my posts about how to eat!