We’ve become used to hearing and reading that exercise is the most important aspect for weight loss. Studies have repeatedly shown that exercise alone might not bring down weight – there are other factors too, the most important being your diet.
It is true that exercise helps improve our mood and makes us feel upbeat, but does it help in faster weight loss? Not always.
Priyanka Verma, a nutritionist at Portea Medical, notes that there is more to exercise than what meets the eye. “Just before the onset of the New Year, you see advertisements saying ‘Join the gym on January 1 and kick start your weight loss goal for the year’! To burst the bubble, there have been several studies which show that exercise isn’t actually all that important for weight loss. But this doesn’t mean exercise isn’t good. It is, in fact, great for the body,” she says.
So then, how does exercise exactly lead to weight loss?
“The key for weight loss is to generate and maintain a calorie deficit. It’s pretty easy to get people to eat 1,000-1,200 calories less per day, but to get them to do more than 1,000 calories per day of exercise is really difficult,” says Verma.
People in general are horrible in calculating “Calories In vs Calories Out” per day. Most people end up eating more than required after exercise, either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories or because they felt more hungry, she said.
“A single slice of pizza, for example, could undo the benefit of an hour’s workout. So could a cafe mocha or an ice cream cone,” notes Verma.
But do fitness trainers feel the same? Or do they feel exercise is the most important aspect of weight loss? We spoke to Anuj Vats, a fitness trainer at Shvas the Body Architecture.
“I believe there are other ways as well to lose weight besides exercise. However, I would say that losing weight without gaining muscle/fitness is not a healthy way,” Vats said, listing out diet plans, meditation, etc.
But, he stressed that losing fat is not the apt way to lose weight. “You need to keep a tap on your sugar intake, which increases the body glucose level that in turn converts to fat. Amidst the other options available for weight loss, exercise is indeed the most important method because it helps in losing fat and gaining muscle which is crucial,” said Vats.