There's an interesting article in TIME that says exercise doesn't do much for weight loss.


I've been a member of the same health club for over 15 years, so I've observed lots of regulars and how their bodies change. One thing I rarely see is people losing weight, no matter how often they go to the gym. Personally, I've never heard of anyone losing significant weight by eating the same as they always did and exercising more. But I know plenty of people who have lost weight by eating less, regardless of how much they exercised.

Today's question: Did you already know that exercise is nearly useless for weight loss? And if not, what kept you from noticing the obvious?

(Note: Experts still agree that exercise is vital for good health, but not because of weight loss.)

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Aug 10, 2009
I saw that article too, and all through it they mentioned that the people that didn't lose weight after exercise ate immediatly after.

Personally I think its just a case of more Silly Americanism.

Exercise doesn't lose weight. Diet doesn't lose weight.

The only thing that loses weight is death.

Exercise HELPS lose weight, Diet HELPS lose weights.

I dont understand how so many people can have so much trouble losing weight.
Aug 10, 2009
I never thought it was obvious, but I knew because my mom is a doctor, and she knows that because she's supposed to.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009

I think your law needs some work. You can turn muscle into fat about as easily as you can turn lead into gold. Its a total myth. They are two totally different substances. It just happens that coincidentally usually when the exercise stops muscle comes off as the stimulus is gone, and fat accumulates as calorie expenditure drops.

Its quite possible to gain or lose muscle or fat independently of the other, depending on diet and exercise. Its equally possible for someone dieting to think they have lost 60lb of fat, when actually they have lost 40lb of fat and starved away another 20lb of muscle.

The human body can achieve amazing things if prodded in the right (or wrong) way with diet and exercise.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
Athletes train their bodies to anticipate a need for massive amounts of energy and to provide it at the drop of a flag from recent food intact (there's no fat to burn).. Fat people have their bodies convinced that they are hungry, even when they're not. You can't fool fat. Athletes get fat when they stop training unless they also stop eating. Fat fights for its life in a nasty feedback loop: the more fat you have the fewer calories you need per pound of weight.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
My impression of a thin person seeing a cheesecake: "Oh, look! Cheese cake! Well, there goes dinner! Om nom nom nom nom!" My impression of a fat person seeing a cheesecake: "Oh, no! A cheesecake! Well, if I can't see it, it doesn't count. Om nom nom nom nom!"
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
As someone who has lost a significant amount of weight on a medically supervised diet, I can say that the weeks I had higher physical activity (they required 2000 calories a week of activity) I had greater weight loss. Even if I cheated some.

They also showed us a number of studies that showed people who lost weight and kept it off for at 5 years or more work out an average of an hour and forty five minutes every day. Where they get the time for that I don't know.
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
Brant's law of caloric entropy: You can turn fat into muscle and muscle into fat but you can't turn fat into nothing, any more than you can turn nothing into fat. I named it after myself.
Aug 10, 2009
While this is simply anecdotal, I can say that I know I have lost weight due to exercise. About eighteen months ago I started exercising and I cut back on my food (I know what your thinking, but keep reading). About a year ago, I started graduate school, and lost the time to exercise, but I still maintain my reduced diet. My weight promptly bounced back up. So exercise definitely matters (although I would certainly agree exercise alone won't do it, and extra muscle may cancel out any loss of fat weight).
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
People usually join a gym because they have led a sedentary lifestyle to that point which means they're likely to have a higher fat/muscle ratio for their weight. When they start to exercise they lose fat and gain muscle but muscle weighs more than fat to there isn't necessarily a noticable difference on the scales.

There is, however, a noticable difference when you look in the mirror. For a direct example I'm 182cm and 85kgs. I run about 50km a week, cycle about 125 km per week (the real world has gone metric - catch up America :-) and do about 2 gym sessions per week so I'm in very good shape. I have friends of similar height and weight who do no exercise which on the surface would indicate that my exercise is doing nothing. However if you do body measurements then the difference becomes clear, they're much larger than I am.

Secondly, and this is based solely on my personal experience, I find my weight is directly proportional to the amount of running I do. My weight oscillates between 83kg - 90kg depending on what I'm doing exercise-wise but my food/drink intake never really changes. The more I run the closer to 83kg I get.

But Scott's note at the end of the post is the most important part. Weight is not a measure of health, it's merely one of a number of indicators but the important thing is for people to be clear in why they go to the gym to make sure they're quantifying the appropriate areas to measure success.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
How come athletes who eat a ton (and many of whom drink a ton) are in such good shape?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
I noticed this for myself a few years ago. I lost weight faster when I reduced the length of my cardio workouts. Weird, but I kept obsessive records of my calorie intake and type/length of workouts, so my conclusion is based on data.

Later, I noticed the same thing for other people as well. The regulars at my gym are not losing weight either. Some of my friends lose weight when they STOP going to the gym.

I have had some frustrating conversations with nutritionists and other trained health professionals who insist on their formulas despite evidence to the contrary. Any failure is blamed on the weakness of the patient being treated. Even folks who show ambition, perserverance, self-denial and strength of will in every other aspect of their life are so judged.

It's very sad.
Aug 10, 2009
err, the bleeped out bit is q u a n t i t i e s and if that is bleeped out too, it's a synonym for amounts.
Aug 10, 2009
Everybody's different.

Genes and metabolism play a big part. A few years back I went on the Zone, which, for every person I know, works wonders. Even "thin" people I know lose weight on the Zone, even if only while they're on it.

I followed the percentages to the letter, but try as I might, simply could not eat the !$%*!$%*!$ they recommended. To my understanding, this should not have been a barrier to weight loss. In addition, I went to the gym 5-6 days a week for about 14-16 months. I spent 45 minutes on weight machines, rotating between upper and lower body weight lifting, followed by 45 minutes on cardio, usually on a cross trainer since it (claimed) to burn the most calories. I increased weights/resistance about every 3 weeks-month. After a couple of months of this, I added 2 aerobics classes a week, a yoga class and a pilates class. What can I say, I lived near the gym and I don't watch television.

Not long before the gym was bought out and I gave up, the manager of the gym came by and told me that even if I was stuffing my face outside the gym (wasn't), I would have lost at least some weight. Not only had the scale not moved, but no fat had either. I had stronger muscles, certainly, but they were largely invisible due to "cushioning". When I stopped, I decided to eat everything I had denied myself over the last year and just did regular activities. I didn't gain an ounce, nor did I get flabbier, I just lost some of the strength I'd built up at the gym.

Interestingly, I had gained all the weight in one shot, over the course of about 4 months /-, after having lived my whole life around 110 - 115 lbs. No doctor will believe I'm not a junk food addict, and since I've injured my knees, my activity level has decreased, and I *have* put on a couple of pounds, which I feel relatively certain will come off as my knees improve.

So...I think it depends on the person. If you eat crap all day and sit on your @$$ then cutting back on the junk food and going to the gym will probably help you. If you eat pretty good and are relatively active, you probably won't notice much of a difference, no matter what your size is. I don't know what will help people who want to lose weight and don't see results through traditional methods.

This article I read re: fat genes was interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/08/health/08iht-snfat.5614611.html?_r=1
particularly this bit, "...fat people who lost large amounts of weight might look like someone who was never fat, but they were very different. In fact, by every metabolic measurement, they seemed like people who were starving."

I don't think my issue is genetic exactly, since there are few really fat people in my family. Thyroid problems abound though; try telling my doctor that...
Aug 10, 2009
I lost 30lbs over a six month period by eliminating soft drinks from my daily caloric intake. At the time I was drinking roughly two sixpacks a day. I had gained the same 30 lbs in about the same amount of time, it was very noticable. I wondered what had changed and I noted that they had free soft drinks at the place where I had started working.
Aug 10, 2009
Not entirely true in every case.
I actually changed nothing in my dietary habits, but yet I burnt off almost all of my body fat by working out (I actually gained a few pounds, but my muscles are about twice as big as they used to be).

but I'm an 18 year old guy that went from never working out during my school year, to working out 2-3 hours every day over the summer....I guess most people can't realistically make the same life style change as me.

Also I made sure I didn't eat more, which might have been the real cause. I burnt calories from exercise but didn't take in any more than I used to. But that takes a LOT of self control.
Aug 10, 2009
Blaming excercise as ineffective is yet another way for people not to take responsibility for their actions. The article actually points to people's behavior as to why they don't lose weight. Hungry after a workout? - have a piece of fruit instead of french fries. Diet obviously is the most important factor, but if you combine excercise and appropriate dietary habits - both will help you lose weight.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
Yes, people get hungrier AND EAT MORE so blame the exercise! This is why people who sit on their *sses all day doing nothing are so thin!
Aug 10, 2009
Jogging, running, or even walking fast will really make a difference when it comes to losing weight. Any cardiovascular exercise performed vigorously enough to make you sweat will help you take the pounds off. Also, don't forget the benefits of increasing your metabolism through consistent exercise. Just because you don't see immediate results doesn't mean much. Training your body to operate at a higher metabolic rate will do wonders in the long run.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 10, 2009
Yup, I heard about this 2 or 3 years ago on NPR. Now to ad to this, you can exercise enough to loose fat mass, but in order to do so, you need burn all your available energy and break through the wall where your body switched from available calories to stored fat calories. This takes about 15 to 20 !$%*! of running to do, not really something the common person will do.

Another interesting study was shown the people will eat whatever is put in front of them. If you slowly increase their portions, they will continue to consume more food and not notice it. I suggest following the Chinese theory of eating till your 80% full.
Aug 10, 2009
well duh if you exercise and eat more you wont lose weight. if you exercise and keep your caloric intake steady you will lose weight. just because exercise makes you hungry doesn't mean you're not losing weight. and just because you're more hungry after you exercised doesn't mean you should simply go with your hunger and eat more. people are such slaves to their hunger and discomfort....

i guess you can make the conclusion that it's too easy to compensate for the burned calories by having a little snack but if your goal is weight loss the only effective way of attaining that is to burn calories while controlling your intake. counting calories sucks but so does heart disease etc...

the headline exercise is useless for weight loss is definitely misleading at best!
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