Is exercise the final answer when it comes to losing weight?

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
It is important to exercise while dieting because exercise contributes to a host of health benefits, including fat burning, stress reduction, immune boosting, maintenance of weight loss and a sense of well-being.
You don't have to starve yourself to get a perfect, fat-free frame. In fact, you shouldn't. Because even if you lose weight through dieting alone, your body won't burn fat any easier. To rev up your fat-burning engines, focus less on how often you empty your plate and more on how often you fill your walking shoes.

When a group of sedentary and overweight older adults recently tested three weight loss systems -- exercise only (mostly walking), diet only and exercise plus diet -- there was no question about the results. When it came to fat burning, the walkers won hands down over those who simply watched what they ate. The bodies of the people who strutted their stuff used more fat to fuel their activity.

Just 30 minutes of daily walking gives you a host of health benefits besides extra fat burning, including more disease protection and stress reduction.
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Those on calorie-restriction diets don’t receive the benefits of stringent eating without physical activity, say researchers in the journal Cell Metabolism. While some studies on dietary restriction diets have shown a longer life span for light eaters, those who don’t exercise won’t reap the healthful benefits since lack of physical activity inhibits fat metabolism. The body’s processes work together. If you want to get lean, get moving, even if you’re dieting.
Whether or not you're on a diet, exercise is very important for maintaining good health, and it definitely helps you lose weight. Moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day can burn up to 300 calories. In just 5 days, that amounts to 1 pound of fat! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of "moderate" exercise a week. You could get this by doing 30 minutes of exercise such as a brisk walk, mowing the lawn, playing doubles tennis or riding a bike on flat ground 5 days a week. If you do more vigorous exercise, you can cut the amount of time down to 75 minutes a week. The CDC also recommends that you perform some muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week. This could include weight lifting, shoveling snow or dirt, pushups and pullups, or resistance band exercises. The more you exercise (up to a point), the more weight you can lose and the better your health will be.

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While exercise can play a large role in successful weight loss, it is not the only or final answer. What we fuel our bodies with, as well as how we sleep and handle stress are HUGE components too. Try to eat as "clean" as possible, get the recommended amount of sleep and manage stress with meditation or other mind/body techniques.
Picture of fruits and vegetables
Chris Embry

While exercise is an important factor in losing weight, it is only part of the equation. In order to lose weight, you need to create a daily calorie deficit. This deficit is created by eating less and exercising more. In order to lose 1 pound (3,500 calories) per week, you will need to create a daily deficit of 500 calories. In effective way to do this is by reducing the number of calories you consume by 250 and increasing the amount you burn through exercise by 250. Once progress stops, you can continue by increasing the amount you exercise or further reducing the number of calories you eat per day.

It is important to note that what you eat will play an important factor as to what type of weight you lose. Concentrate on eating plenty of lean protein (chicken, fish, eggs), fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of healthy fat (nuts, olive oil, avocados, fish oil) and complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes). This will help ensure you lose body fat and hold on to your lean muscle mass. If you eat too much processed food and sugar, you may still lose weight, however, it is more likely to be muscle. This will lower your metabolism, making it harder to lose more weight, and will put you on the road to that "skinny fat" look.

Pam Grout
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

With regular exercise, you can probably drop a pound or two—maybe even five. But within weeks after you resume normal eating mode, you'll be back on the phone moaning to somebody that you need to lose weight again. The only way to permanently change your weight is to change your body's chemistry. Exercise will do it. There are probably hormones and chemicals that will do it. But the easiest way, the most convenient way, the cheapest way to permanently alter your body's chemistry is to fill it full of oxygen. I'm telling you, folks. Deep breathing is the answer.

Jumpstart Your Metabolism: How To Lose Weight By Changing The Way You Breathe

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Jumpstart Your Metabolism: How To Lose Weight By Changing The Way You Breathe

If you've tried every conceivable combination of diet and exercise and still can't shed those extra pounds, then perhaps you haven't discovered the hidden key to weight loss -- proper breathing. By...
Exercise, while critically important to your overall health and well-being has a very specific energy demand that is measurable. What this means is; whatever you choose to do as far as exercise is concerned costs your body a specific amount of calories to do it. Thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise can cost anywhere from 150 to 350 calories depending on what you do, how much you weigh, and the intensity at which you do it. If you simply replace those calories that you just burned with an energy bar or a large supplement shake and then continue on eating the rest of the day as you normally would, then while you will be better off because of exercising your weight loss will be negligible or nonexistent. The key to healthy weight loss is combining caloric restriction with additional caloric expenditure. This means healthy reduced eating and healthy exercise.
Fitness expert Kimberly Garrison discusses whether or not you can lose weight by exercise alone. Watch Kimberly Garrison's video for tips and information on fitness, health and wellness.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.