Researchers released results today of a study that helps explain why it’s so hard to lose weight by exercise alone. Turns out that when we increase our activity level, our bodies adjust our metabolism to compensate. Those “calories burned” estimates in our fitness trackers or on the treadmills at the gym? Wishful thinking, apparently.
How Exercise Sabotages Weight Loss
There are other ways that exercise doesn’t help with weight loss. Exercising can make you hungrier, leading you to eat extra calories. Even worse, exercising can lull you into a false sense of security: You figure you can get away with a second (or third) cookie, because of all the calories you’re burning at the gym.
And if you think all your new muscle is increasing your calorie needs, you might want to temper your enthusiasm. Although we constantly hear that “muscle burns more calories than fat,” the impact is tinier than any of us want to believe.
How Exercise Can Help
But I think there are ways that exercise helps with weight loss. They don’t have much to do with the calories we (or our muscles) are burning due to our workouts. For me, it has more to do with helping me stay in touch with my body…and with reality. There’s nothing like putting on a bunch of spandex and spending an hour in a room full of mirrors to make real the rewards and/or consequences of your food choices.
Regular exercise also reinforces my self-image as someone who takes good care of their health. I may be a bit hungrier when I exercise, but I’m also more motivated to make healthy food choices. One healthy habit reinforces the other.
What have you found? Does exercising make it harder or easier for you to maintain your weight or follow your healthy eating plan?