‘Exercise doesn’t help you lose weight’ is a current media message: Have we got it all wrong?

RosemaryM 17By Rosemary Marchese

Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids

Have we got it all wrong? 

Before you throw your hands up in the air, ditch your gym membership in despair and then reach for the donut, hear me out. Yes, the headlines right now are rife with titles like ‘Why you can’t exercise your way to weight loss’ you need to stop and know the facts. The media is quick to publish such headlines to get your attention!

The study was conducted at the City University of New York and reported in Current Biology on January 28th this year and provides an explanation as to why you can’t just exercise and then stuff your face with food and expect to lose weight. I don’t know about you, but not too surprised there.

According to the data collected by Herman Pontzer and colleagues, our bodies are designed to adapt to higher physical activity levels. Yes, we adapt! But does that mean we should not bother?

What does this all mean?

Let me explain the study. So, they measured the daily energy expenditure and activity levels of more than 300 men and women (from various places in the world) for a one-week period. The results showed that those people with moderate physical activity levels used about 200 additional calories per day than those who were sedentary but for those who exercised at a higher intensity there was no additional energy expenditure. So being moderately active showed the same calorie burning as those who exercised at higher intensity. It seems that the energy expended during the day tends to plateau at moderate intensity. So, the authors of the study are claiming that the results offer an explanation as to why people that just exercise, without any improvement to their diet, find it very difficult to lose weight. They may lose little or no weight at all.

The authors do stress, however, that everyone should remember that exercise still has so many health benefits and should still be promoted as a vital part of a healthy life. But the study does imply that food choices are so critical to a weight loss and maintenance program.

The good news is that this moderate intensity exercise is still great for calorie burning and improving health!

The fast food and beverage companies won’t like this too much because they have been trying to push the blame of rising obesity levels to the rise in sedentary behaviour more than food choices. The results of this study may result in these companies needing to rethink their blame game strategy!


Rose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’. Visit www.thefitbusymum.com.au

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