Myth: Exercise is essential for weight loss.


Exercise is not required for weight loss.

Fitness young Asian woman training legs with squat exercise on beach

Fitness young Asian woman training legs 

This statement, “exercise is essential for weight loss,” is far from the truth.  I have heard many so-called experts indicate that exercise is required to lose weight.  There are many problems with this statement and our near-religious belief that it is true.  We have had it pounded into our heads until we conditioned to think of exercise as an essential part and possibly the most important step in any weight loss plan.  The fact is that there is limited evidence to indicate or support the belief that exercise is essential for weight loss.  

The fact is that evidence has been accumulating for years to show that exercise is not all that important for weight loss.  The evidence is not saying that exercise is not an important part of our lives and I am not one of those people that will tell you that exercise is not needed.  It is an essential part of a healthy life.  It does far more than just burning calories.   It helps you lower your stress level and builds cardiovascular health and fitness.  It would be foolish for me to recommend against exercise.  

Does exercise help with weight loss?  Yes.  Exercise does help with weight loss.  Each minute you exercise results in more calories burned than if you did not exercise at all.  It can also help by reducing your appetite.  Both of these may assist with weight loss, but neither makes exercise essential for weight loss.  Evidence makes it quite clear that diet changes are much more important in and essential for weight loss.  We need to stop treating obesity as a disease of the lazy.   A lack of exercise and willpower is not the cause of obesity and weight gain.  Diet is responsible for the majority of obesity in this country.  Public-health obesity policies should focus more on fighting the over-consumption of low-quality food and improving the quality of food choices.

The bottom line:  Exercise is not required for weight loss.  The evidence is now clear that exercise is excellent for health, but it is just not that important for weight loss.  So don’t expect to lose a lot of weight by increasing your physical activity without including diet changes also.  A thin waistline is actually made in the kitchen.

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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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