Have you spent hours at the gym, running your tail off, only to see no change on the scale? Me too. Which has me asking- what is the best exercise to lose weight?
Since the 1980s we’ve been told that losing weight requires burning more calories than you take in. So according to this theory, any exercise that burns a lot of calories should be good for weight loss, right? But those hours you and I have spent running, spinning, on the elliptical.. those hours tell us otherwise.
There is no best exercise to lose weight.
This may sound a bit extreme, but sitting on my couch right now, typing this post, has probably done as much for me to lose weight as all those miles I ran. A growing body of research has shown exercise not effective for weight loss.
Let’s go back to the old idea of calories in and calories out. There are two major issues when exercise is added to the equation:
- Your body produces ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger, in response to exercise. So changing your calories out by adding in exercise changes the amount of calories you take in. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of being ravenous after a hard workout. And if you’re trying to keep your calorie intake consistent, this is a problem.
- You are less active on days you exercise. Multiple studies have shown that people tend to keep the amount of physical activity they engage in fairly consistent. So kids who added gym class to their daily routine compensated by running around less throughout the day.
If you’ve read my previous blog post, you’ll know that I don’t believe cutting calories is the way to permanent weight loss. Instead, body weight is regulated by a balance of hormones.
Exercise can actually make weight loss more difficult.
Using the idea that hormones control our body weight, let me explain to you how exercise can make weight loss harder.
- High intensity exercise causes increased cortisol release. High levels of cortisol results in increased insulin release. And increased insulin increases the body weight set point
Does this mean you shouldn’t exercise? Of course not!
Exercise has myriad benefits:
- Decrease stress
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Decreased risk of certain types of cancer
- Decreased risk of diabetes
- Preserves memory function as we age
What should you do if you’re actively trying to lose weight? Stick to lower intensity exercise: walking, yoga, and pilates are all great options. These activities allow you to improve cardiovascular health, build strength, and increase flexibility, all without increasing cortisol levels.
What new reason will you find for exercise?
One huge advantage of this change in mindset: if you only work out to lose weight, you probably hate working out. I know this was true for me. I felt like nothing I did made a difference. Because it didn’t, in the parameters I was looking at. Now that I’m paying attention to how I feel, how strong I feel, and how flexible I am, I can see improvements every week. What reason will you find to exercise?
Want to learn more about weight loss? Sign up for my free weight loss masterclass!
Dr. Greer is a Plastic Surgeon who practices in Cleveland, OH. Her passion is helping moms regain self-confidence by getting rid of sagginess, wrinkles, and stubborn fat. Read more about her at www.greerplastics.org.