So if exercise is important for a healthy life, yet exercising can be an impediment to weight loss, what are you supposed to do if you need to lose that spare tire you're carrying around your waist? Exercise smart. Research is showing that the most effective way to torch a lot of calories, yet not wipe yourself out so that you're eating a lot more or collapsing on the couch, is to engage in shorter, more intensive workouts.
Think high-intensity circuit training, interval training or both. High-intensity circuit training involves lifting weights with shorter-than-normal rest periods in between sets. Aerobic interval training might entail alternating jogging and sprinting, or biking at a fast-but-easy cadence, then peddling as fast as you can in a higher gear [source: Bowden]. Other researchers have a slightly different take on the topic, saying it's best to engage in moderate forms of exercise, such as walking. This way you shouldn't end up exhausted, or with a raging appetite. Yet you'll have burned some calories [source: John].
Dismayed that things aren't a little more cut-and-dried? Don't let that prevent you from exercising, even if you're not sure you're doing the "right" kind. As noted, it's critical for good health. In addition, if you do manage to lose weight, exercise has been proven necessary to keep it off. A full 90 percent of the people in the National Weight Control Registry, which is tracking more than 10,000 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off, work out regularly. Be aware, though, that in order to maintain weight loss, research shows you have to exercise a pretty long time — about an hour a day of moderate-intensity exercise, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A bummer, perhaps, if you're not a fan of the gym. But you'll be happy come bikini season, or when you hit your 90th birthday, healthy and strong.
Author's Note: Does exercise really help with weight loss?
I enjoy exercising. A lot. And I've always counted myself lucky for this. But here's the interesting thing. Over the last 20 years, I've increased my exercise regimen from running two or three miles a few days a week to running 10 miles a day — or doing the equivalent on the elliptical — six days a week. I also take a strength training class once or twice a week on top of that. You'd think I'd be a waif by now. Yet my weight has remained the same. I haven't lost a pound, despite all of this exercise.
First I thought it was because my metabolism was slowing as I aged. But in the back of my mind, I knew I was simply burning off everything I ate. I was eating more calories. No, I wasn't gorging on burgers or chips. I was eating pretty healthily, actually. Still, I might treat myself at night with a glass of wine, some mixed nuts and a little cheese — for a total of about 500 calories, almost the same as a Big Mac! Now I just have to decide if I want to keep exercising so much every day, or cut back on the exercising and let the extra time I'll have be my nightly treat.
More Great Links
- Bowden, Dr. Jonny. "Exercise: The News You Don't Want to Hear." Huffington Post. Sept. 11, 2012. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jonny-bowden/exercise-benefits_b_1777630.html
- Calorie King. "Lose the Weight Forever." (Nov. 17, 2015) http://www.calorieking.com/
- Carroll, Aaron. "To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More." The New York Times. June 15, 2015. (Nov. 26, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/16/upshot/to-lose-weight-eating-less-is-far-more-important-than-exercising-more.html?_r=0
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Adult Obesity Facts." (Nov. 18, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The Benefits of Physical Activity." (Nov. 18, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight." (Nov. 16, 2015) http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/
- Garrett, Nicola. "Why exercise doesn't always help you lose weight." ABC Health & Wellbeing. Jan. 15, 2015. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://www.abc.net.au/health/features/stories/2015/01/15/4162890.htm
- John, Emma. "Why exercise won't make you thin." The Guardian. Sept. 18, 2010. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/sep/19/exercise-dieting-public-health
- Kurtzleben, Danielle. "A Long Wait in Line for the Bench Press." U.S. News & World Report. Jan. 3, 2013. (Nov. 18, 2015) http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/01/03/its-gym-season-from-now-until-march
- My Fitness Pal. "Calories Burned From Exercise." (Nov. 19, 2015) http://www.myfitnesspal.com/exercise/lookup
- Narins, Elizabeth. "Going to the Gym Isn't Helping You Lose Weight." Cosmopolitan. April 23, 2015. (Nov. 16, 2015) http://www.cosmopolitan.com/health-fitness/news/a39484/you-cant-make-up-for-a-bad-diet-with-exercise/
- Reynolds, Gretchen. "Weighing the Evidence on Exercise." The New York Times Magazine. April 16, 2010. (Nov. 20, 2015) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18exercise-t.html?_r=0
- Statista. "Total number of memberships at fitness centers / health clubs in the U.S. from 2000 to 2014 (in millions)." (Nov. 18, 2015) http://www.statista.com/statistics/236123/us-fitness-center—health-club-memberships/
- The National Weight Control Registry. "The National Weight Control Registry." (Nov. 20, 2015) http://www.nwcr.ws/
- Zeratsky, Katherine. "Can I lose weight if my only exercise is walking?" Mayo Clinic. (Nov. 19, 2015) http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/walking/faq-20058345