Exercise Does Lead to Weight Loss – Part 1 of 5

Reading the article by Dan Roberts in the Telegraph today ‘Why your workout isn’t working’ is pretty lame and only shows a sensationalist view backed by poor understanding of the subject matter.


Fact: Exercise combined with healthy eating does lead to successful weight loss and weight maintenance – let me explain.


The NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) 2006 Obesity Guidelines recommend Diet and Lifestyle Interventions combined with Behavioural Therapy as the ‘best’ way to help people lose weight and maintain it. There is a wealth of studies that show, on average, high levels of activity predict successful weight loss.


Roberts uses the Queensland data to start his argument. He focuses on the fact that half of the research participants did not reach their predicted weight loss – he fails to highlight that half of them did! Surely this proves that regular exercise can help SOME people lose weight. Why not others? Well if he bothered to ask an Eating Therapist he would know that this variability in results could be down to Compliance – this is where people say they have followed the instructions, but really they have fallen short along the way. Supervised exercise for 12 weeks is great, but no change to their diet – does this mean that people could eat whatever they wanted. Exercise can affect our physiology in various ways.


Our bodies also have Compensatory Responses to Exercise, which undermine the calorie deficit of exercise within the energy systems of the body. This comes down to individual variability, which is one reason why half the people lost weight in the Queensland research and half did not.


Some people may experience Metabolic Adaptations to energy loss, which means their metabolic rate slows down. When people go on a diet and exercise, this would be a natural phenomenon as people are producing a calorie deficit, with poor eating quality and timing and exercise induced calorie burn. The body will slow its metabolism for protection and will be unwilling to give up its fat stores, with fear that it may be starving.


There are also changes to the appetite system that lead to changes in energy intake. Some people will experience increases in appetite, which will affect eating frequency and portion size. Other people will change their food (macronutrient) preference in favour of high energy density foods such as fats and sugars, which are automatic and unconscious.


The study also fails to mention the degree of Obesity each participant was classified at (there are Obesity levels 1-3) and whether they had full blood screens to determine whether they suffer from Insulin Resistance, which can also be described as being pre-diabetic. These individuals are unable to metabolise carbohydrate very well, and actually require exercise to change the ‘shimmer’ of the muscle cells to allow efficient glucose transport. The research does not seem to consider this as a reason for the data split.


My point here is to make sense of weigh loss research that is taken out of context and sensationalised by headline grabbing articles.


Exercise can and will lead to weight loss, but everyone is different, so one prescription will not be right for everyone. Effective weight loss will come from experts who are trained in understanding the ‘big picture’ of metabolism, the psychology of eating, healthy nutrition and the correct balance of exercise.


I got the balance right for Gary Barlow, and well, he’s looking great!


Over the next few days I will explain the Behavioural Change Compensatory Responses to Exercise, as well as describing the ideal exercise regime and optimal diet for Weight Loss. So please stay tuned and tell me what you think to my argument.






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