Weighing the Evidence on Exercise

Posted: Jun 06 in Weight Loss Blog by

Most people know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy, and it’s usually suggested that people trying to lose weight increase their physical activity. However, it’s still unclear exactly what role exercise plays in weight loss, especially since many people report increasing their physical activity without seeing weight loss results. New research offers more details on what exercise can and cannot do to help you shed unwanted pounds.

Experts agree that the science of weight loss comes down to simple mathematics—you need to burn more calories than you consume. It stands to reason that this can be achieved by consuming fewer calories, burning more calories, or a combination of both techniques. However, while research supports that cutting calories by 25% can result in about the same amount of weight loss as cutting calories by 12.5% and increasing calories burned by 12.5%, trying to increase activity without cutting calories doesn’t seem to be as effective.

Research suggests that exercise alone is less likely to lead to weight loss because the body encourages an increase in caloric intake to combat the effects of increased physical activity. This seems to be especially true in women. Studies showed that women who exercise experience increased blood concentrations of acylated ghrelin and decreased concentrations of insulin, which causes an increase in appetite. Women’s bodies are, in effect, directing them to eat more in order to make up for extra calories burned. Men, however, do not typically display these same hormonal changes after exercise.

Rest assured, there is some good news from the scientific community for women who exercise. While exercise alone may not increase your chances of losing weight initially, it does seem to help you maintain your weight loss once achieved. Studies have shown that exercising during and after losing weight may help your body adjust to—and stick with—lower caloric needs.

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