Research: Exercise helps with weight loss.

Research DefinitionResearch Definition

Exercise won’t make you thin but it helps.

Exercise assists diet in losing weight.  


The United States and the rest of the world continue to struggle with a significant public health problem that is nearly entirely associated with obesity and inactivity.  This epidemic has far-ranging consequences that could cripple the world economy by reducing the available workforce.  It even greatly impacts our children.  Unfortunately, the obesity rate shows no signs of decreasing in the near future.  People have long suggested that exercise is the key to weight loss.  May recent studies have suggested that this is not completely true.  One recent study strongly suggests that a thin waistline is actually made in the kitchen, but this does not mean that exercise does not have a role in weight loss.  

So, what is the effect of exercise in the treatment of obesity?   A significant amount of research has been performed on the effects of exercise for the reduction of body weight.  A recent journal publication in the Annals of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine looked at thist very question[1].  The researchers used a literature review to attack the question.  The literature review looked at the effects of aerobic exercise, strength training, and high intensity interval training on obesity and weight loss.  Most studies indicated that exercise alone has a small effect on body weight reduction independent of caloric restriction.  This does nto mean that exercise does nto have an effect on weight loss.  In fact, when exercise is combined with dietary restriction, exercise has a synergistic (additive) effect.  The means that exercise enhances weight loss beyond what diet alone woudl do by itself.  High intensity interval training has been shown to have the highest effect and it is safe, effective, and well-tolerated mode of exercise in the obese population.   

In addition to assiting with weight loss, exercise also has been shown to have significant beneficial effects on cardiovascular fitness and lowers metabolic risk factors.  These effects are  independent of the actual weight loss achieved by exercise.   With exercise, losing just a small amount of weight can have a significant beneficial effect on one cardiovacular risk factors and health.  

Researchers, also identified that sitting time also appears to be an another independent risk factor for the development of metabolic risk factors that predispose subject to heart disease and matobolic syndrome.  This makes sense because individuals who spend more time sitting and watching television have worse metabolic profiles even if they achieve the recommended amount of physical activity per week.  

The bottom line:  Although diet is the king of weight loss, continuous moderate intensity aerobic exercise adds to the effect of dietary change to enhance weight loss. Resistance training has significant cardiovascular and metabolic effects independent of weight loss.  High intensity interval training is more effective, time efficient, and well-tolerated in the obese population.  I woudl recommend adding exercise to your weight loss plans.  


  1. [1]
    E. Laskowski, “The effect of exercise in the treatment of obesity,” A, vol. 61, p. e396, Jul. 2018 [Online]. Available: 10.1016/″ target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>
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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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