Do We Need Exercise For Weight Loss?

Some days, you may be questioning why any of us would put ourselves through the torture of exercising. You only live once! Surely it must be so much easier to simply halve your dietary intake since you were going to have to follow a weight-loss diet either way. What’s the point of putting yourself through this endless, self-imposed torture — week in, week out? You just don’t see the logic behind it. Do we truly need to incorporate exercise to lose weight?


More Than A Matter Of Math And Calculating Calories

Achieving and managing your ideal figure is not simply a matter of math and calories — your body is far more complex than that. You’ve probably read somewhere that when you’re counting calories, weight loss tends to happen when there is a deficit in the number of calories that goes in versus the number of calories you burn. So how does exercise figure into this?

Recent research seems to agree with the hypothesis that exercise contributes very little to weight loss. Through exercise, the average individual usually burns approximately less than 30% of the number of calories they eat — a seemingly insignificant percentage. It’s true that exercise is no miracle calorie burner. On average, under an hour of aerobic exercise burns up only approximately 150 to 300 calories. By comparison, the average woman needs at least 2000 calories worth of food to survive. Does it truly paint the whole picture, though? Not at all.

Plenty of other factors come into play here and taking the calorie system at face value doesn’t work in the long run, anyway. Counting calories probably helps best when you’ve only just begun and you’re still trying to get a good gauge of how much is too much. Portion control can be tricky when your body and mind have never been wired to keeping a handle on how much you eat. But again, the human body is more complex than you may realise and not all calories are equal.

Take your intake of protein versus carbohydrates for instance. Your body will react completely differently to 100 calories worth of proteins from carbs. When your body takes in protein, it usually triggers the release of hormones that may curb your appetite. In contrast, carbs trigger insulin production, which interferes with your inbuilt fat-burning mechanism since your body is getting its preferred energy source. Any excess carbs that haven’t been used to power any bodily processes will then be turned into fat instead. On the other hand, fat production never happens with proteins since they’re composed of completely different components.

How, then, does your body achieve all this? One word: hormones.


Where Exercise Truly Counts

Exercise can help regulate your hormones in a variety of ways, including controlling the release of cortisol. This hormone is usually stimulated when your body reacts to stress, which is why it’s usually referred to as a stress hormone, which tends to increase production of fat. Imagine the amount of fat your body produces whenever you stress eat. Cortisol is also released in high amount with increased production of insulin, which tends to occur whenever you eat carbohydrates. Binge far too much on carbohydrates and the resultant higher cortisol levels will lead to an increase in the production of fat.

The takeaway here is to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy and can help you de-stress. Reduced stress will signal your body to produce less cortisol, thus preventing your body from accelerating fat production more so than you really need. You don’t really have to push yourself to train more than you really need to as long as you do keep moving. Stick to a pace that you can manage on the treadmill, that won’t leave you dreading your next session. Or you could always try taking up yoga, an excellent aerobic exercise that gets you going while calming your mind.


Muscle Keeps The Weight Off In The Long Run

If you’re already working on yoga training, you’ve got this more than covered. Yoga does help you build muscle in all the right places, helping you to get stronger in ways that matter most. Although muscle is much denser than fat, your body has to work harder to maintain muscle mass. This means that the more muscle you have, the more energy your body is going to need, which encourages your body to burn more fat as fuel.

Some women are a little leery of the bulk that may come with strength training but fret not! As a woman, you simply lack the physiological mechanism to build muscle as easily as your male counterparts. If you nevertheless still find it difficult to let go, you can try sticking to lighter weights. Chances are, you probably won’t be able to lift weights that are that heavy anyway.


The Way You Eat Matters

Of course, none of this will ever count for anything if you don’t control the way you eat. If you still struggle to control how much you eat, try eating smaller, more frequent meals. This may help you take a closer look at what you’re actually eating per serving. Furthermore, sticking to three meals per day may end up leaving you hungrier in between, and thus encourage excessive snacking. When your body doesn’t get food, your metabolism also slows down to protect yourself from starvation by hoarding fat stores. This is why your weight tends to start to plateau after a period of weight loss no matter how little you eat. It’s all about maintaining a balance!