Article Stop the con – exercise for your heart and soul not weight loss
Have you ever taken on an exercise program with the goal of losing weight?
You would not be the first person to do so, weight loss is probably the most common reason people start or ramp up their exercise.
My next question
Have you ever
- a) given up
- b) been hard on yourself
- c) all the above
because the effort you’ve put into your exercise regime is not budging the scales or your measurements?
If you answered yes to a) given up…
Don’t give up. Even without weight loss, exercise is still extremely beneficial for health and mobility. The list of benefits is very long, but that’s a blog for another time.
And as I’ve said before, the only reason we need to exercise is that it makes us feel better. Both immediately afterwards and generally with regular exercise.
If you answered yes to b) been hard on yourself…
Do not beat yourself up! The reason why you’re not seeing results is because:
EXERCISE DOES NOT CAUSE WEIGHT LOSS
I know this to be true from my own experience, which I’ll tell you about shortly.
You may know it’s true through your own experience too. I feel your frustration.
A google search of my bold statement returns several articles to read on the subject.
I like this one published by Vox because it brings together heaps of research and summarises what is known about this phenomenon.
It’s a detailed article and you’ll need to sit for a while to read it thoroughly, but here is my summary of the main points.
- Exercise is great for both physical and mental health.
- Research has shown that exercise alone does not cause weight loss.
- Most energy taken in our food is consumed in maintaining bodily functions (basal metabolism) – for most people only a small proportion is expended in physical activity. One researcher even suggests there is an upper limit to how much energy we can expend through exercise.
- To lose weight through exercise alone would take A LOT of time and effort – more than most people can spare.
- Exercise can lead to eating more – possibly because we overestimate how much energy we burn during exercise or exercise may increase appetite.
- One theory suggests that we may conserve energy in other areas (basal metabolism and energy expenditure at rest) when we increase physical activity.
- The myth of exercise being the key to weight loss is constantly reinforced by organisations and marketing.
- The best way to lose weight is to limit calories in a way that is enjoyable and sustainable with a focus on eating healthy food. Do not count calories burned during exercise towards extra food.
Now, back to my own story of exercise and lack of weight loss
It’s a common assumption that I dwell in the healthy weight range (albeit the upper end) because I’m an avid exerciser.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I put on weight VERY easily if I eat the wrong foods despite my high level of physical activity.
I spent most of my life until my early 30s overweight
I never had consistent exercise habits until then either and always assumed that was why I was fat.
I had a revelation about the time of my 30th birthday and took up running.
I ran and ran and improved my fitness remarkably. I felt great!
I did not lose weight
Weight loss was not my primary reason for taking up running.
I did it because I wanted to be fit, but I thought I would lose weight.
I did not
Around this time of being very fit but overweight, I even confused a doctor with my slow pulse rate (a sign of fitness).
I kept saying it was probably due to my running, but they were confused because how could I be fit and overweight at the same time?
They even checked my heart with an ECG and concluded that I must have just been fit!
New millennium, new me
It was the year 2000, the year I turned 33, that I finally worked out I was overweight because of the food I ate.
Over the ensuing years I’ve experimented (I am a scientist after all 😊) and tweaked my eating habits to find what keeps me satisfied without overeating.
Exercise for your heart and soul
I believe we should exercise first and foremost to soothe the soul and just feel good.
If we’re just exercising to feel better, then we don’t have to stress about all the reasons we should be exercising. They just follow on naturally.
Why healthy weight is important
It is certainly possible to be healthy while technically overweight and I have no judgement about your weight on the scales.
However, there are two reasons why I maintain my own weight in a particular range:
- Managing lower limb joint osteoarthritis
- Pelvic floor health
There is no doubt that being overweight or obese will stress your lower limb joints and worsen the wear and tear of osteoarthritis.
Losing some weight can certainly take a load of your pelvic floor and contribute to keeping it in good condition.
These are the main reasons I advocate for weight loss and maintenance around the recommended healthy range.
Weight loss is not listed in the benefits of training with me
I believe that the motivation to exercise should centre on being fitter and stronger, to take better health and mobility into older age, and to just feel good.
Various health benefits of exercise are accessible even if you are overweight.
If weight loss is one of your goals, I will not con you into believing that exercise is the magic bullet it is touted to be.
I’ll discuss with you the major contribution of nutrition to weight management.
However, I’m not qualified to do meal plans and can only discuss the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Personal trainers who do meal plans and give dietary advice have qualifications in addition to the foundational Certificate IV in Fitness.
I can also talk to you about the health professionals who are trained to give nutritional advice.
Stop the con, but don’t stop moving
Realising that exercise is not the holy grail of weight loss that it’s cracked up to be might elicit an exasperated throwing up of hands and make you question the entire point.
It’s time to put weight loss aside and be motivated by the actual great outcomes of exercise.
Keep it up for your heart and soul 😊
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