Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin

Is exercising good for your health? Sure! Is it key to losing weight? Absolutely not! But so many people believe that it is. We’ve all heard the mantra “eat less and exer- cise more to lose weight.” Close to 50 million Americans have gym memberships or belong to health clubs. We spend about $20 billion a year on gym member- ships, yet obesity rates continue to drastically increase year after year. There are many good reasons to exercise, such as improving cardiovascular health, but weight loss is not one of them. The truth of the matter is that although exercise is important for good health, the foods you eat are three times more important for controlling your weight than exercise. I remember reading a Time magazine cover story that quoted the prominent exercise researcher and professor Eric Ravussin, who admitted to Time (“Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin,” Au- gust 9, 2009) that “in general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless.” To lose one pound of fat by exercising, you must burn 3,500 calories. This would be equivalent to running thirty-five miles or walking on a treadmill for about seven and a half hours (at four miles per hour). As you can see, it would take a  considerable amount of exercise to make a huge impact on your weight-loss goals. I think it is important to note that exercise has many more benefits beyond weight loss. Most people who take up exercise become healthier by increasing their aerobic activity, which results in decreased blood pressure and overall better mood and mental health. I think because exercise is good for your overall health, many health practitioners downplay the fact that more and more research has shown that exercise has a negligible impact on weight loss. In other words, exercise may not be critical for weight loss, but in general, it is still great for our overall health. It is true that exercise burns calories, and you must burn calories to lose weight, but exercise has another effect that counteracts the burning of calories: it stimu- lates hunger, which causes you to eat more, which in turn offsets any weight lost from exercising. Exercise doesn’t necessarily make you lose weight; in fact, it could make you gain some. The one time in my life that I worked out with a trainer for a few months, I gained fifteen pounds. When I complained to my trainer, he said the extra weight was all muscle. But my feeling was Who cares? I can’t fit into my clothes. And I hated my new body shape—not curvy and shapely, but big and bulky. Even though I feel it is one of my personal flaws, I have to be honest with you: I don’t work out. I haven’t exercised in years. I tried to in the past but could never  stick with it for more than four months, even when I had a trainer. I know that it’s good for me and that we should all exercise, but unfortunately, I don’t have the discipline to stick to an exercise regimen. However, I do have a strong desire to look and feel great. So I had to figure out how I could lose weight and keep it off, knowing that I didn’t want to do fad diets and didn’t want to be in the gym all the time. Happily, I found a system of healthy living that has yielded amazing results: permanent weight loss, a higher energy level, and overall great health! As a result, I have come to the conclusion that staying slim is all about eating right, while being fit is about exercising. So, as long as I focus on healthy eating, I will continue to stay slim. But if I want to reach a high level of fitness, I will need to incorporate more exercise into my life. 

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