Most people who start working out in hopes of shedding pounds wind up disappointed, a lamentable circumstance familiar to both exercisers and scientists. Multiple studies have found that without major changes to diet, exercise typically results in only modest weight loss at best (although it generally makes people much healthier). Quite a few exercisers lose no weight. Some gain. But there is encouraging news about physical activity and weight loss in a new study by researchers at the University of Copenhagen. It found that exercise does seem to contribute to waist tightening, provided that the amount of exercise is neither too little nor, more strikingly, too much.
To reach that conclusion, the Danish scientists rounded up a group of pudgy and sedentary young men, a segment of the population increasingly common in Denmark, as elsewhere in the world. The volunteers, most in their 20’s or early 30’s, visited the scientists’ lab to undergo baseline measurements of their aerobic fitness, body fat, metabolic rates, and general health. None had diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease and, while heavy, they were not obese. The men were asked not to consciously change their diets, either by eating more or less and to keep detailed daily food diaries throughout the 13 weeks. They were then randomly assigned to 3 groups and these were the outcomes:
- No exercise – The non-exercisers, who served as controls, returned to their former routines, with no change to their diets or sedentary ways. Outcome – at the end of the 13 weeks, the members of the control group weighed the same as they had at the start, and their body fat percentages were unchanged, which is hardly surprising.
- One hour per day – A second group tackled a more strenuous routine of almost hour-long workouts, during which each man burned 600 calories. Outcome – they lost an average of five pounds each. Weight loss, while by no means negligible, was still about 20% less than would have been expected given the number of calories the men were expending each day during exercise if food intake and other aspects of their life had held steady.
- Half-hour per day – A third group began 13 weeks of almost daily 30-minute moderate workouts, consisting of jogging, cycling, or until each man had burned 300 calories (based on his individual metabolic rate). Outcome – considerably better, shedding about seven pounds each, a total that, given the smaller number of calories that they were burning during exercise, represents a hefty 83% “bonus” beyond what would have been expected.
The overall message is that the shorter exercise sessions seem to have allowed the men to burn calories without wanting to replace them so much. The hour-long sessions were more draining and prompted a stronger and largely unconscious desire to replenish the lost energy stores. Still, if the relationship between working out and losing weight remains complicated and tangled, one point is unequivocal. The men who were sedentary lost no weight at all…. so if you hope to shed pounds, any amount of exercise is better than none.
If you’d like to learn more about exercise and weight loss or how you can successfully lose weight while still maintaining an active lifestyle, contact Calla Slimspa Medical Weight Loss Center in Winter Park today! 407-644-SLIM (7546)