Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Can You Lose Weight Just by Exercising?

If lack of exercise is enough for you to put on weight then it stands to reason that increased exercise will help you lose weight, given a constant caloric intake. It’s certainly true that various types and degrees of exercise use up varying amounts of calories. Take the following for example:

Physical Exercise / Calories Per Hour

Walking slowly (2.6 mph) / 150

Walking moderately (3.7 mph) / 215

Walking very fast (5.3 mph) / 565

Running / 1,242

Is it possible to control your weight through exercise alone?

A medical study involving a group of male college students was set up so they were offered a generous financial reward provided they kept their weight constant. Their diet was then altered.

Firstly they were placed on a low calorie diet. The students found that they had to limit their activities to avoid losing weight. Then their diet was increased to 6,000 calories a day. Now they found that they had to exercise frantically to avoid gaining weight. By running, rowing and other exercises they were able to keep their weight constant.

Clearly there is a direct relationship between the calories you consume and the calories you burn through activity, the difference being the amount of fat stored around your middle.

How can you use this to your advantage?

The sensible approach is to incorporate moderate levels of exercise into your daily routine. This may mean starting with brisk walking for 30 minutes 4 days a week or even more sedately if you are totally out of shape. The compounding effect of even this moderate level of exercise is that you will use an extra 1000 calories a week which is almost one pound of body weight. Over 50 weeks that’s 50 pounds! Hey, now we’re talking. Remember we haven’t done anything with diet yet.

Does Your Appetite Increase with Increased Exercise?

To sustain prolonged levels of exercise for endurance type training my own experience tells me that increasing your calorie intake is essential in order to sustain performance. Actually I believe it makes weight management easier because you have larger variables at work. If you consume and use 5,000 calories a day then its easier to cut 500 calories out of your diet than for someone consuming 1,500 calories a day.

On the other hand if your exercise is moderate then you should not need to increase your calorie intake. If you are overweight and eating 2,000 calories a day then exercising for 30 minutes and burning 250 calories should not require you to eat more to enable you to sustain that level of activity.

The irony is that when you reduce your exercise levels it seems harder to reduce your calorie intake to avoid putting on weight. I think this is the crux of the issue for many of us as we get into our middle years. There is a natural tendency for activity levels to drop off, for all sorts of reasons, but there’s no corresponding tendency to cut down on our eating. It has the obvious and statistically proven consequences.

As in all weight problem situations you need to be aware of what food you are putting into your body and seek alternatives that are both nutritious and low in calories. Fruits and vegetables are always an excellent choice.

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