Does physical activity help lose weight?

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Weight loss is the main reason many of us exercise. Although there are other reasons to be active (to improve your health, to have energy, and for fun), collectively, we are fascinated by weight. Or, to be more precise, we are obsessed with fat.

Being overweight increases the risk of developing several diseases and health conditions, including certain types of cancer, heart disease or diabetes, not to mention the stigma associated with obesity.

But let’s face it: it’s very difficult to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight over the long term.

The influence of our environment

Although it is common in our society to perceive overweight people as lazy, this perception is misguided. Our society encourages a lifestyle conducive to excessive food consumption and physical inactivity. This is what some call the obesitogenic environment. This environment is detrimental to people trying to eat healthy and be active.

Despite this, we should lose weight if we do physical activity, right? In fact, yes and no.

Any physical activity burns calories, whether we’re lifting weights or just walking down the stairs to go to the basement. This is important since fat mass is related to the number of calories ingested (contained in food and drinks) compared to the number of calories burned (through our metabolism and physical activity). However, it is not as simple as we might think.

For many adults, it takes between 1,500 and 2,000 calories for the body to survive at rest. This is called basal metabolism.

It is recommended to move at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Suppose you go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes several times during a week; you will only burn about 500 calories during this time. This is equivalent to the daily intake of a medium-sized apple or banana, while about ⅓ kilogram (or one pound) of fat is approximately 3,500 calories.

So, although there are many benefits associated with even minimal physical activity, it does not lead to weight loss.

Calorie compensation

There is another factor that can make it difficult to lose weight through physical activity: compensation. When we are active, we may compensate, either by being less active the rest of the day or by eating more. We can even “reward” ourselves with food to compensate for the energy expended.

Finally, another factor complicates weight-bearing activities such as walking, running, soccer, tennis and, to a lesser extent, cycling: the lighter we are, the easier it is to move around.

For example, if a person is used to walking two kilometers, after a few weeks that person will have lost two pounds. However, as the person loses weight, walking the same distance at the same pace will burn fewer calories.

This means that to continue losing weight, we need to be even more active.

The contribution of exercise

Even though physical activity alone is not very effective for weight loss, it plays a very important role when combined with a diet that promotes weight loss. Although the cornerstone of weight loss is changing our diet, we not only lose fat, but also muscle mass when dietary changes are not accompanied by increased activity. physical.

This loss of muscle mass is detrimental to health. This is why a weight-loss diet combined with physical activity helps prevent any loss of muscle mass and ensures that the weight lost is mostly fat.

Generally speaking, the best way to lose weight is to exercise and eat a healthy diet.

Remember that even if it does not necessarily lead to weight loss, physical activity has many other benefits such as reducing stress and the risk of diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis. In addition, physical activity improves mental well-being.