OK this article might get me in a little trouble. Some may tell me off. It would not be the first time or the last. So here I go!
Everything you hear about weight loss emphasizes "diet and exercise" as the combination you need to reach your goals. If you are one of the many people who loathe exercising, that message can fill you with despair. However, here's the scoop: the exercise component does not contribute very much toward your weight loss. You can lose weight very successfully even if you don't exercise at all.
Exercise does not burn as many calories as the gurus would have you believe. Even an intense exercise session takes just a few hundred calories. How many times have you worked up a good sweat for 30-45 minutes on a stationary bike or treadmill, only to find that you have not even offset a can of soda? It can make you want to head straight back to the couch!
Moreover, exercise increases your body's demands for energy and materials to repair and build muscles, so your appetite will also increase. Your body will want you to eat more at the very moment you are trying to eat less.
There is no doubt that most people in today's society do not get enough exercise. However, this is not the cause of the obesity epidemic. The true causes are:
- We eat too many calories
- We have a poor idea of correct portion size
- We have lost touch with our bodies' satisfaction signals and eat past the point where we have had enough.
- We eat unbalanced diets with too many fats and simple carbohydrates that don't fill us up, program us to eat more, and don't have the nutrients we need.
The ultimate key to weight loss, then, is changing our eating habits. Many different research studies have reached the same conclusion. If you choose whole foods over processed ones, get rid of low-nutrient junk foods, and eat mostly nutrient rich-based meals and snacks, the kilos or pounds or stones will melt away; even if you don't exercise at all!
But don't toss out your sneakers just yet. Losing weight and embracing a healthy, nutrition-dense diet is the biggest step you can take to improve and protect your overall health. But even if it doesn't contribute much to your weight loss, you still need a basic amount of exercise in your life.
Important positive effects of exercise extend beyond weight loss and weight management. For example:
- Regular exercise raises your HDL ("good") cholesterol and lowers your triglycerides, which will greatly improve your overall cholesterol levels.
- Regular exercise strengthens and builds your bones, giving you better resistance against bone loss as you age.
- Regular exercise is a great tool for stress management. High stress raises the levels of cortisol in your system, and high cortisol levels affect your circulation and heart health, increase your tendency to gain weight, and cause cravings for sugary and carb-heavy foods.
However, you don't have to spend hours in the gym or drip buckets of sweat to achieve these benefits. Even if you hate exercising, it is not hard to manage the recommended exercise level of 150-180 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That is just 30 minutes per day, five or six days a week. What constitutes moderate exercise? A brisk walk, a relaxing yoga session, or a burst of vigorous yard or house work will get you there.
So for you exercise haters, this is a good news/bad news/good news message. The good news: you can lose weight successfully without exercise. The bad news: if you want to improve and maintain your overall health, you do need to get some exercise. The good news: you don't have to become a gym rat or a Pilates expert to do it.
In the end, if your main goal is weight loss, don't feel guilty if you can't stand the thought of weightlifting or treadmills. Spend your time and energy focusing on your nutrition and just find an activity that you enjoy. Here is to a fitter and healthier!