This isn’t the first time I’ve noted that there is no realistically prescribable amount of exercise that by itself will lead to clinically meaningful weight loss, and it probably won’t be the last. And that said, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but reality really is a useful place to live, and is probably a worthwhile frame of reference.
Today’s reiteration stems from a recent-ish study that looked at “energy compensation in response to aerobic exercise training in overweight adults” which when translated refers to whether or not people eat back the calories they burn exercises and if that’s why the results of exercise for weight loss studies so often disappoint.
The authors followed 36 men and women with varying degrees of excess weight (BMIs ranged from 25-35) and randomly assigned them to exercise either 30 minutes daily or 60 minutes daily, 5 days a week, for 12 weeks.
3 months on analyzed data later and the authors summarized conclusions include this statement,
“Results of the current study suggest the recommendation should be closer to 300 minutes per week to achieve appreciable fat loss“
because in their study it was only the participants who averaged 335 minutes of weekly exercise who were seen to lose a statistically significant amount of weight (and though significant statistically, it was only an average of 5.7lbs).
Though it’s not noted in the study, it should go without saying that whatever intervention you employ to lose weight, if you stop that intervention, the weight you lost by way of its impact will likely return. And so while perhaps 335 minutes of weekly exercise for another bunch of months would lead to further loss, if you stop or decrease exercising that much, the weight you lost with it is likely to return.
Back to the headline of this blog post. If you think the average person, living a real life, replete with life’s many stressors, challenges, and responsibilities, can sustainably and consistently find upwards of 300 minutes of weekly exercise, I’d invite you first to get that much yourself even for just 3 weeks, as for the majority of people out there, it’s not even a remotely realistically prescribable amount.
Instead of continuing to tie exercise to weight, and in so doing motivate people to start exercising in the name of weight loss, which in turn risks disappointment and the cessation of exercise if while successfully increasing exercise to a more realistically obtainable amount no weight is lost, the focus needs to shift to the fact that exercise is arguably the single healthiest modifiable behaviour anyone can undertake, that any amount is terrific, and that it’s incredibly beneficial regardless of whether or not weight is lost in the process.
Photo by David Whittaker from Pexels