Effect of exercise on weightloss

I understand what you are saying, but I think there is a danger the other way, too: people have the whole “exercise hardly burns off any calories” thing so often that they start to think it’s pointless to exercise at all–because all those other benefits seem sort of abstract.

I know for myself (and I am a pretty careful record keeper) that when I am active, maintenance is a thousand times more pleasant (and therefore doable) than when I am not. Sedentary maintenance means virtually no indulgences, no unplanned eating because you are burning so few calories in your day-to-day life. It is genuinely difficult to function in society under those kinds of restrictions. Not only can you not participate in social events, you can’t work late and pick something up on the way home, you can’t run out for something if you forget your lunch, you can’t put off the grocery shopping one extra day and throw something together out of your freezer. Living at that calorie range means you have to make every single calorie filling or else go from a normal state of mild hunger to real hunger. Even moderate exercise makes your life much better.

The real world benefit of regular exercise is not that you will have substantial weight loss as a direct effect from the energy burned from exercise, but rather that linking exercise with dieting has a synergistic BEHAVIORAL effect. Regular exercise ON A CONSISTENT basis is the main support pillar that other good health behaviors can affix themselves to including a healthy, well disciplined diet. One reinforces the other and regular exercise will tend to push you back on track in maintaining dietary discipline. Exercise and diet together are 10 times more powerful as a combo in effecting and maintaining positive behavioral change than either one individually.

The one thing I can tell you for certain is that I used to jog for an hour a day and the amount of weight I lost from that was nowhere near the weight I would lose from an hour of a game of Racquetball or Squash in an enclosed room.

I don’t even know if Racquetball is still a popular sport these days. But Squash has been around for a long, long time and it seems to me it will be around for a long time to come.

I think the reason for that is that one tends to sweat a lot more when you’re in an enclosed room. I jogged for more than a year. But as soon as I took up Squash, I only spent a little time jogging and a lot more time playing Squash.

Many people would likely strongly disagree with that and would say that each form of exercise has its own benefits.

Manda Jo, I understand your point as well. And there is plenty out there that shows how important exercise is to maintaining weight loss. (One of the main discriminators between those who maintained weight loss long term and those who regained was if they exercised regularly.)

It is also important though to have a realistic sense of the impact. It will make people look better and fit into clothes better even if they lose no weight at all. It will help them feel better. It will help them be healthier overall. As noted by several posters, the health difference between inactivity and modest activity is humungous. The first two really are not so abstract anyway. But someone who wants to lose weight better be careful about how much of an extra indulgence (s)he allows him/herself because (s)he ran a mile or two today. It does not justify a Starbucks chocolate cream cheese muffin as a reward.

Of course astro’s comment is cogent here. Looking at that muffin you could end up saying “Is that muffin worth the entire week’s worth of my exercise?” and refraining might be a bit easier when you can attach some value to the junk. And when you do indulge maybe you’ll relish it a bit more as you know the work it represents.

Lazlo, if you lost more fat weight it was not because you sweated more. There is of course the possibility that while you were having fun you worked harder and burned more calories without even realizing it. And the fact that squash tends to be more the equal of high intensity intervals than steady state which may be overall more effective as well.

I don’t know anyone who says exercise is pointless.

I am a huge proponent of exercise. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I run four miles at lunchtime. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I lift weights at the gym. But I don’t do these things to lose weight or maintain a certain weight, because I know I am not burning enough calories to have much of an impact. I exercise for other reasons: I run to keep my cardiovascular system in shape, and I lift to minimize aches and pains associated with arthritis and muscular atrophy. And there are other benefits, of course.

As I have mentioned in many other threads, I was overweight (fat) for many years. Twenty years ago I finally decided I didn’t want to be a fat person anymore and changed my style of eating. It is the permanent modification of my diet – not exercise – that is responsible for me maintaining a normal weight.

I guess I feel very strongly because that is exactly the sort of binary thinking that kept me massively overweight for years. There is a middle ground between plain chicken breast and chocolate cream cheese muffins–it’s the McDonald’s ice cream cone, the skinny latte, the Chipotle bowl with no sour cream or cheese. People need to have a *realistic *sense, yes, but that isn’t the message in this thread. The message in this thread is “no impact, really”, and that’s not true. Active people can eat somewhat more than sedentary people and maintain the same weight.

The basic issue here is that a mile a day is, objectively, extremely little excersize. Human were made to be on the move pretty much constanty. So it’s kind of absurd to expect to counter a full day of sitting with ten minutes of effort.

Unless you love working out (and some do,) the best way to get the effects of exercise is to integrate activity into your everyday routine, so that you are doing it day in and day out without having to make a special effort. Try waking for part of your commute, taking up an active hobby, joining a sports team, etc. You want to find things that keep you active for a couple hours a day, or that keep you active in short bursts continually through the day. For example, my commute integrates about 3 miles of walking round trip, and I end up walking 4-5 miles a day without making any special effort. That’s a lot. Other people might mountain bike for a full day on a weekend. That adds up. It’s about the active lifestyle, not just doing a bit of activity.

In my experience, when I was losing weight, exercise did make a real difference, adding about an extra pound of weight loss a week, according to all my record keeping. (Of course, I was also running about 6-8 miles per day 5x week.) Basically, I reduced my calorie intake by about 500-600 calories per day and increased my calorie burn by about 500 calories per day.

And, yeah, in terms of maintaining, I could go back to my “full calorie” diet and not gain weight. If I drop the exercise (which I have this winter), I go up about 5 pounds or so.

But, for me, it was also motivational. Putting in the hard, though enjoyable, work of running didn’t make me want to lose the effects of it on my weight loss plan by straying from my diet. I understand it works the other way for some people (they overestimate calorie loss and make up for it by eating more), but, for me, exercise helped me stick to my plan.

I mean, yes, it’s far less work and easiest to lose weight by modifying your diet only vs. exercise only. But both is best and, according to my numbers, 1 lb/week was coming off because of my diet, and 1 lb/week because of my level of exercise (35-40 miles/week).

Manda Jo, I think you are reading something that is mostly not there.

I read that “it’s extremely easy to eat more than you burn”, that decreasing intake is more important for weight loss, that the effect of exercise on weight loss is modest (not zero) but on body composition is huge … Okay one post that says it don’t do jack but otherwise the message is not “no impact.” The message is that the nutrition plan is more what will cause the weight loss and that the exercise is what helps direct the weight loss to come more from fat. That is the realistic message. The idea that you can add a beer a day without modifying anything else because you jogged a mile or two is OTOH not so realistic.

Mind you I am not a big fan of calorie counting myself. But those who do often (not always, see pulykamell’s and your experiences) overestimate the net calorie impact of exercise. And underestimate its importance in many other ways.

And this is true. I find most of those “how much does XXX exercise” burn websites do not subtract out basal calorie burn (how many calories you would have burnt sitting on your ass doing absolutely nothing), so you get a bit of an overestimate. And I wouldn’t trust those numbers on exercise equipment if my life depended on it. I always just went with the most conservative estimate, a rough 100 calories/mile, whereas most sites would have me at around 125-130 calories/mile for a 175 lb male.

I don’t strictly calorie count anymore, but calorie counting/food diary was extremely important to me to at least get a sense of how much stuff to put in my body, and how energy dense certain foods were. Of course, the types of calories and other eating habits were important, too, but just getting that baseline and recalibrating what a proper amount of food is and what the impact of exercise really is helped put everything into perspective. Plus, for me, the numbers worked out and were predictable, so that was encouraging, as well.

Loads of good advice here, but I’ll just add one observation.

I was a distance runner for 20 years back in my 50s and 60s (now 86). I ran hundreds of 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and 10 marathons.

I ran seven days a week, usually averaging 50 miles a week, much more when training for marathons. All those years, and still today, I am the same weight as when I graduated HS.

In all those distance races, I never saw an overweight person. Also, as a side benefit, we could eat like horses, and still not gain weight.

YMMV. Literally.

I kind of doubt you would ever want to become a seasoned marathon runner to begin with if you had a tendency to pack on the lbs and a disinclination to intensive exercise which is the case for many obese people. It’s a fairly self selecting cohort. saying “I never saw a fat marathon runner” is kind of like saying “I never saw a really slender power lifter”.

Yes they can but… as someone who has cycled from truly significant fat ass to muscular several times over the course of my 55 years and now (via personal trainer and counting calories) am getting to my target weights again, the fallacy here re exercise being a big deal for consumption is that the “somewhat more” is relatively small differential and obese eaters go way beyond that in daily calories. I have hard experience in this.

Exercise is a disciplinary frame that strongly supports responsible dieting behavior. Dieting as an end in itself without a consistent exercise program almost always fails. In the end I got over myself and decided it was easier to pay the trainer and make the appointment than continue to fantasize that I would be motivated enough to do it on my own. I had to let go of that fantasy and in the end it’s what made all the difference. I don’t like exercising enough to be consistent with it and if left to my own devices would figure out a dozen way to avoid the gym and any schedules I set for myself. It’s 75 dollars a week for 3 daily sessions of an hour each but how much more expensive is that than a coronary or diabetes or a host of other issues related to a sedentary and obese lifestyle ?

Should have looked further back into the pack. There are quite a number of overweight folks back where I run. :slight_smile:

Thanks for posting this - one of the reasons I exercise is specifically so I don’t have to worry about what I eat (I still pay attention to it though).

Between October 2011 and September 2013 I lost around 8kg or so only by exercising. Then I stopped, and (if the scales were accurate) had gained about 6kg by Christmas.

Recently started actually watching what I eat, AND exercising, and (if scales are accurate) have lost around 2kg this month.

But I am doing a little more than 1 mile a day - so far I have burnt 8,500 calories this month by running. I am touching 100km for the month.

I don’t think this was as true 35 years ago as it is now.

Well, you never ran a race with me. Official Overweight Person Who Runs Distance Races checking in. I know, it seems impossible, like I am some freak of nature! And yet, here I am. The lowest weight of my adult life was during half-marathon training, and I was still comfortably in the BMI “overweight” category.

Anyway, I mostly came in just to offer the OP anecdotal information that when I first took up running, I actually gained a little weight in the first six weeks or so, even though I was maintaining a pretty strict diet at the time. Maybe from muscle gain, or… who knows. After that, I had a fairly slow but regular weight loss for a while, which accelerated as I began to run longer times and distances.

Still, even with running, the only time I really lose weight is when I modify my diet. Exercise just doesn’t have THAT big of an effect unless you are doing pretty serious exercise. In my experience, at least. You should exercise anyway, though, because cardiovascular health is important and you won’t get that just from limiting your calories.

I started running in 1976 (high school) and when I started running road races, you saw more and more ordinary people (as opposed to “serious” runners) but it was rare to see any who were more than moderately overweight. The vast majority were of average to skinny build. And even rarer were the walkers.