For most of us, the words exercise and weight loss can cause an entire range of emotion and much of it isn’t positive. The journey to weight loss can be filled with self-doubt, frustration, and even anger at the lack of results.
It’s a familiar story.
The key is not to take your workouts to insanity level. A new study published in Current Biology found that you can only burn so many calories through exercise. After that, you’re doing nothing more than damaging muscle tissue, wearing yourself out, and pushing a rock uphill to get mowed down by it again.
Participants in the research were at several levels of mobility. Some very active while others were sedentary. Those who were most active did burn more calories, until they smacked into a wall and didn’t burn anymore than the least active participant, no matter how active they were.
This is a fascinating finding in the realm of exercise and weight loss. The researchers determined that walking a couple of miles each day, exercising twice a week, and taking the stairs would achieve the maximum calorie burn.
Far different advice than a personal trainer at a local gym would recommend. It’s certainly a far different message than the medical community has been parroting for decades. The “just exercise more to lose weight” mantra without a true examination of diet and lifestyle.
Herman Pontzer, Hunter College associate professor, explained, “We can’t push the calories out too much. Our bodies work very hard to keep it the same.”
While getting your body moving is undoubtedly important, we all know people who take it too far. Men and women who spend hours in the gym or in front of their televisions, working out daily – even when they’re sick.
When it comes to weight loss, exercise isn’t the only answer. It’s no more a quick fix than a magic pill. True, successful weight loss means changing everything about your life. Working out, certainly, but not until your body has no choice than to spend resources on tissue repair because you’ve done too much.
Dr. Holly Lofton with NYU Langone Medical Center, said you need to mix it up but even that isn’t a sure thing. “If you run all the time, try biking or swimming, and if you bike, try running or swimming, because using different muscles can increase your energy expenditure again. It may also be possible to decrease and then increase your activity again and get an increase [in calorie burning].”
Professor Pontzer also cautioned against relying too heavily on an activity monitor because they’re unable to factor in your body’s slow-down on calorie burn after a certain point.
Another interesting piece of data that came away from the study is that those participants with more body fat burned more calories. Researchers think hormones and genetics may ultimately have an impact on the effectiveness of exercise on weight loss.
The take away from the research is that your body only allows you to “spend” a certain amount of calories each day. The number is likely different for everyone but once you hit your “allowance” – you body cuts you off.
It spends the rest on brain function, organ processes, immunity, and everything else going on inside you. Pontzer clarified, “We think this is a really common evolutionary adaptation that all animals use to keep from outstripping their resources and to keep from starving. Your body is listening to your environment and setting an energy expenditure level it can maintain.”
The true “keys” to weight loss…not such a mystery
- Exercise 20-30 minutes daily (that’s it)
- Give yourself 8 hours of sleep every night
- Drink ½ ounce of water per pound of your bodyweight (daily)
- Sunshine vitamin D (10 mins early morning, late afternoon) on hands or face
- Dump the junk in your diet (nothing in boxes or bags)
- Limit grains, refined sugars, and commercial dairy
- More fruits and vegetables on every plate, every day
- Quit smoking (you can do it)
It’s time to take a more balanced approach to the puzzle of exercise and weight loss. Let’s be reasonable. If you want long-term results, you have to do more than work out frantically at the gym everyday. You need to tune your entire body to the ideal frequency for you (not your best friend, your co-worker, or your personal trainer).
Read my book “Diet Wise” for ways you can lose weight without breaking down your body or feeling miserable all the time. You can achieve your goals without beating yourself up.