Research: Exercise reduces diet lapses

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Physical activity appears to be protective factor against dietary during and after weight loss


Nearly everyone had either attempted weight loss or lost weight and then experienced a lapse that resulted in regain. It almost seems like an inevitability. Dietary lapses drive weight loss failure And can be quite disheartening and destroy confidence. The good news is that this may not have to happen and there are things to help you prevent this consequence.

Physical activity may be one such risk factor. I have long suggested to my patients that they add exercise to their weight loss plans despite the fact that the research shows that the benefits for weight loss are nominal at best. Let face it, physical activity can increase or decrease appetite, and thus risk of lapse, is unclear.

A study from 2020 look at this very topic​[1]​. The researchers aimed to examine the extent to which physical activity of various intensities prospectively predicts same-day dietary lapses among individuals enrolled in a weight loss program. They enrolled 130 adults with overweight or obesity in a behavioral weight loss treatment instructed to follow a physical activity and dietary prescription.

The researchers found that exercise, when added to weight loss diet, reduced relapses. In fact, they found that for every 10 minutes performed, dieters had a 1% decrease in relapses. This finding was statistically significant with light exercise. Moderate to strenuous showed an effect but it did nto approach statistically significance.

The bottom line: Exercise appears to protective against dietary lapses. Results suggested that for every additional 10 min of total PA one engaged in, the risk of lapse decreased by 1%. I would recommend adding exercise to your weight loss and maintenance plans.


  1. [1]
    R. J. Crochiere et al., “Is physical activity a risk or protective factor for subsequent dietary lapses among behavioral weight loss participants?,” Health Psychology, pp. 240–244, Mar. 2020, doi: 10.1037/hea0000839. [Online]. Available:
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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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