Does exercise actually help you lose weight?

I’ve seen a lot in the media recently that has questioned the effectiveness of exercise as part of a weight loss plan & the surprising conclusions a lot of these articles & documentaries have come to is that 


Exercise is not an effective way to get you to lose weight. 

One of these articles actually suggested your activity levels & exercise routine had virtually no effect on your energy burning & therefore ability to lose weight, & so focusing your attention on it was a waste of your time. 


These documentaries & articles, although based on elements of truth, I thought were particularly misleading & since having had several people express to me their confusion over whether they should keep exercising, I thought I’d delve into this to provide some clarity. 


The basics


Our body requires energy (in the form of food) to be able to properly function. 


Everything your body does, from controlling your hormones to digesting your food requires energy. 


All of these every day processes, that you don’t even consciously realise are happening, need energy to be able to be carried out. 


The speed at which all of these things are happening is referred to as your metabolic rate. Quite literally the rate at which all of the metabolic processes are occurring in your body. 


Kind of like the speed at which a factory is operating. With all of the individual departments of the factory doing their bit. 


This means that even when we’re sat still (sat at a desk working, laid on the sofa watching tv) our body is burning through a sizeable amount of energy to ‘keep the factory running’. 


As soon as we begin moving (walking around, hoovering up, carrying shopping, or exercising) we place the body under extra demand & that demand means ‘the factory’ has to work harder to supply our muscles with what they need to move us around, push a trolley, lift a kettlebell etc. 


So to be absolutely clear 



The mistake people make however, is they often OVERESTIMATE just HOW MUCH energy certain activities burn. 


For an average person, 


30 mins of moderate intensity walking could burn around 150kcal 


45 mins high intensity spinning class could burn around 500kcal


1 hour of weight training could burn around 400-500kcal 


So this means when we’re active or exercising (even to a high intensity), we’re only burning around 5kcal-10kcal per minute. 


Quite inefficient really, when you compare that to how many calories you could eat in a minute!


When we consider purely the calorie burn, an hour of exercise could be undone with a piece of flapjack & a latte- & I bet it doesn’t take you an hour to eat a piece of flapjack! 

So is exercising pointless? 




Moving more & exercising regularly will ONLY add to your calorie burning & therefore speed up your weight loss efforts. BUT relying solely on exercise to bring about the energy deficit you need to lose weight will be extremely difficult if you’re not also making changes to your diet. 


It’s easier & quicker to limit how much energy is going in (food & drink) than attempting to exercise it ALL off. 


If we think about our factory analogy. Weight gain is like there’s too many raw materials arriving at the factory for processing, compared with the factories ability to process them. So the deliveries are stacking up in the warehouse. 


Whats more sensible- keep shouting at your factory staff to speed up & process all of this extra work? Or simply slow down the new deliveries & let your team catch up? 


Slowing down the deliveries will make the biggest difference (reducing your calorie intake), but you could also have some of your staff say behind a few days a week to help clear the backlog of work (sensible exercise routine). 


It’s important to understand though that exercise does more for our calorie burning than just the energy burned while we’re doing it. 


Exercise plans that focus on training with weights (or any form of resistance like bands, bodyweight etc) can help us build muscle. 


Now you might read the word muscle & be immediately put off by images of bodybuilders appearing in your head. 


When I refer to building some muscle, I do not mean to those extremes. What I mean is an exercise plan that will help you look more toned, reduce your chances of frailty as you age & allow you to eat more. 


(Check out some of my clients results that were achieved with regular weight training- they didn’t suddenly wake up one day & resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger!). 


The more muscle we have, the higher our calorie burning at all times. If we continue with our factory analogy, building some muscle is like hiring more workers. The workload is going to be spread between them all & they’ll be able to get more done. This can play a huge role in your long term weight loss success. 


There are certain ways to exercise that will help maximise your energy usage, getting more done in less time & there are also ways to exercise that will focus more on building muscle & strength & therefore help increase your long term calorie burning. So if you have a specific goal, make sure to seek help for the type of plan you should be following. 


BUT remember that any type of exercise, whether it’s yoga, a step class, running or bodyweight circuits will ALL burn energy for you & therefore help with your weight loss. Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’ to still be providing you with benefit. 


Something that’s often overlooked is that whatever your exercise routine- whether its high intensity workouts or slow walks round the park- they ALL have the added benefit of keeping you occupied for that set amount of time. 


An hour of walking outdoors, is an hour of your day you are not at home in the kitchen staring into the fridge!

Take home points:

Focusing on moving more & following an exercise routine is a brilliant way to approach trying to lose weight & can really help speed up the process. Just don’t make the mistake of relying solely on exercise to bring about the changes you want. Diet is going to play a big part in this. 


Certain exercise plans will be more effective for weight loss & some more effective for building muscle, but all types of exercise will help increase your energy burning & can be great for getting you out of environments that prompt you to eat more. Make sure to pick one you enjoy. 

March 23, 2021

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