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How might exercise help me maintain my weight loss?

Sari Greaves
Nutrition & Dietetics
Based on a study carried out in animals, researchers found that animals that exercised after losing weight re-gained less weight than animals that were less active after they returned to a normal diet. They believe this is because the active animals preferentially burned fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates. Thus, less fat ended up being stored as fat tissue.

The sedentary animals also had a more voracious appetite, possibly because they were burning more carbohydrates as fuel and storing more fat. As they used up their stores of carbohydrates, their appetite increased along with their bellies.

In rats, exercise after weight loss was linked in a study with the formation of fewer new fat cells. Any increase in the number of fat cells makes it easier for the body to store fat. This is an interesting finding that merits more research since experts have previously thought that fat cell numbers don't increase during adulthood, and weight gain comes from an increase in the size of fat cells already present. At least in rats the number of fat cells increases in number during weight regain. This raises the possibility that this happens in humans too. This could partially explain why it's so challenging to maintain weight loss.

There's another theory to explain weight regain after weight loss. After weight loss your body tries to return you to your genetically predetermined set-point. This is the weight that your body wants to maintain. When you deviate too far from it by gaining or losing weight your body makes adjustments to try to bring you back to it. Exercise may help here too, by re-setting your set point.

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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.