Moving Your Way To Health
Do you believe that if you could spend more time in the gym THAT would be your ticket to weight-loss? More exercise = more weight-loss?
AND have you been in a situation where you wanted to indulge in a treat, felt guilty about it, but managed to make a deal with yourself…
“I’ll have a treat now, THEN I’ll just do a little bit more exercise tomorrow to make up for it?”
I have been there more times than I can count. Negotiating my way into days worth of cardio to make up for extra food eaten. Even though social media keeps telling me how many calories are in my favourite treats and the ridiculous amount of activity I will need to complete in order to work those calories off – I STILL had the same equation in my head.
“If I eat more, I’ll just exercise more to fix it.”
We see exercising as a means to lose weight and the relationship between food and exercise as 50:50, with exercise being more important.
“I mean, I am sweating, and hurting, so it must be having a huge impact, right?”
But does it? What if I told you the balance is not 50:50?
And that exercise has been proven to NOT be an effective means for weight-loss, would you believe me?
I hear the skepticism already….
Just hold on, lemme explain…
In a very simplified model, the key to weight loss (burning the excess energy stores on our body – FAT) lies in the balance of Energy IN vs Energy OUT. Energy IN being the food you eat, contributes to the full 100% while the Energy OUT has a few components to it:
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) (energy needed to keep you alive every day)
Energy to break down (digest) food (because it takes energy to make energy)
Activity throughout the day
Your BMR accounts for about 60-80% of the Energy OUT – you have no control over this. Food digestion is about 10% and the rest of the 10-30% is your daily activities – going to work, caring for the kids, mowing the lawn, exercising, etc. Now, the activity component is the only component that is FULLY in your control. So you compare 100% of the Energy IN to 10-30% of controllable Energy OUT – your balance is way off.
How about a mathematical example?
If we say there are 3,500 calories in 1 lb of fat, and for ease of calculation let’s say you want to lose exactly 1 lb of fat per week, you would have to create a calorie deficit of 3500 calories/week. Or an extra 500 calories/day.
An average person would walk at a speed of:
4 miles/hr and burn 5 cal/min…..3500 Cal/5 min = 700 min/per week
700 min/60 min = 11.7 hours/week (or 1.6 hrs a day)
You would have to walk about an hour and a half every day for 1 week, making no changes to your diet to lose 1 measly pound. Even if you wanted to commit to this amount of activity, is this sustainable in the long run? Because whatever you do to lose weight, you must be able to sustain it for life to keep the weight off – and 1.5 hours…? That is ALOT of walking!
Not only that, since you exercised, your body is going to increase your hunger hormones. Try to make you eat more to make up for the calories you lost during your workout. As well, you are a HUMAN BEING. So following some kind of exercise we tend to slow down. We might decide to take the elevator instead of the stairs. Have a nap in the afternoon. Or spend more time sitting at work because we got our steps in already for the day. So you will burn less calories throughout the rest of your day…
So, it is clear that exercise is not the golden ticket to weight-loss.
Does that mean we dismiss exercise altogether from a weight-loss strategy due to its little effect on numbers? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
An important takeaway is not to focus on what exercise DOESN’T do, but to shift our attention to what it DOES DO.
THERE IS NO DRUG OR THERAPY MODERN MEDICINE CAN PROVIDE THAT COMPARES TO THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE…
By no means is this exhaustive but, exercise improves:
Blood sugar levels
Blood pressure, and
Can reduce the risk of some cancers better than any drug
But used alone it does not have a large impact on weight-loss. Exercise has a bigger impact in WEIGHT MAINTENANCE. On top all this – exercise feeeeeels goooood and it helps to drive other healthier behaviours and habit formation.
So, can we stop thinking about exercise as a means for weight-loss?! How about we reframe the role of exercise and place a different value on it? As the saying goes “If you don’t make time for your health, you will have to make time for your illness.”
Why not exercise for your health? To be more flexible? To be stronger? To manage stress? Even if you don’t lose a pound being more active, activity can help you to negate most, if not all of your potential risks that carrying excess weight may have.
So, what should you be doing then, and how much?
The recommendation is for 150 minutes of exercise per week – an average of 30 minutes/day of moderate activity. It doesn’t even have to be all one session, you can break it up into shorter bouts. It can be whatever activity you enjoy, whether it’s going for a walk, riding a bike, cutting grass, washing your car, working in your yard, or going to gym facilities and workout classes.
Find something you enjoy, start small, schedule your activity in like you do your appointments and, get moving! To quote Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a family physician and expert in Obesity from Ontario, Canada,
“Some is good, more is better, but everything counts.”