Can exercise lead to meaningful weight loss?
The key to successful weight loss is creating an energy deficit. A negative energy balance or deficit will cause you to burn fat for energy in order to main the steady state and avoid the chaos of inefficiency that would ultimately result in death if you did not have any fat stores to start with. I have always been taught that a slim waist is made in the kitchen and into the gym, but it just makes sense that you should be able to lose weight by either.
Weight loss can be achieved by either reducing energy intake or increasing energy expenditure or a combination of either. The increased energy expenditure is not always but is usually induced by exercise. Exercise-induced weight loss is usually smaller than expected and especially when compared to that achieved by changing your diet. Face it, you lose less weight than the effort you perceive to put into exercise.
Why is it that you lose less weight than expected from exercise? First, let us look at what I refer to the donut phenomenon. A donut is a small bake dessert or breakfast sweet that has bout 200 calories. It is nearly all processed carbohydrates and fat. Forget that it is a nutrition nightmare. Focus on the size and the thought that it is just a small indiscretion and what could that hurt? The problem is that this donut has 200 calories and will take you 45-60 minutes of brisk walking to burn them.
So what is the point? The average person underestimates the calories they consume and overestimates calories burned with activity. It is part of our nature. In fact, most will have another indulgence after exercise and this will completely erase the calories burned. Instead of focusing on exercise as a means to lose weight, look at it as a means to boost the weight loss from the lower calorie intake you are already consuming. Also, use it as a means to suppress the hunger caused by dieting and not as a primary means to lose weight.
So does exercise do anything for weight loss? Yes. Exercise has been shown to both slow regain and eliminate regain if continued after you meet your goal. This statement makes perfect sense because if you exercise more and your intake remains uncompensated, you will not gain the weight back. If if you do compensate, you will gain less if you continue to exercise.
The bottom line: You can lose weight with exercise but rarely is it sustained or significant over time. I recommend that you look at exercise as a boost or addition to your dietary changes and not as the primary means to induce weight loss. Weight loss induced by energy intake reduction. Although it is limited at inducting meaningful weight loss, exercise has been shown to prevent or slow regain after weight loss. I will continue to recommend regular exercise.