Exercise For Weight Loss

There is so much misinformation around about the benefits of exercise, particularly in regard to weight loss.

But let’s use a bit of common sense, shall we?

When we get active ie exercise, we use up energy.

If you don’t eat more calories, then this energy has to come from your body stores ie from fat.

So exercising more will burn off fat, and you will lose weight.

Simple, isn’t it?


Common sense has failed you and everyone else who pushes this line of thinking.

Don’t kill the messenger. I’m just passing on the researched reality.

Exercise has a pitifully small weight loss advantage.

Mild to moderate exercise removes an average of less than 3 pounds / 1 kilogram.

Vigorous exercise produces barely any more weight loss at 4 pounds or 1.5 kilograms.

That’s all!

Now that isn’t to say exercise doesn’t have other important. It does.

Exercise tones up your muscles, improves your heart, is a more effective mood enhancer than anti-depressants, helps you live longer, among other benefits. Pretty important if you ask me.

It’s just that exercise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for losing weight.

This totally non-commonsense finding is systematically proven by a review of all the best literature on exercise put together by the most authoritative research collation body in the world, the Cochrane Collaboration. They are not sponsored by medical companies so they are uniquely independent reviewers.

The header of their “Exercise for overweight or obesity” review does indeed say…

We found that exercise has a positive effect on body weight

But buried lower down in the sleep-inducing technical details they admit how miserably small the weight loss is…

When compared with no treatment, exercise resulted in small weight losses across studies. Exercise combined with diet resulted in a greater weight reduction than diet alone (WMD – 1.0 kg; 95% confidence interval (CI) -1.3 to -0.7). Increasing exercise intensity increased the magnitude of weight loss (WMD – 1.5 kg; 95% CI -2.3 to -0.7).

The small weight loss is the same whether you exercise for 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months or 12 months!

Not only that but no matter what type of exercise it is, the results are still unerringly the same.

You can check out the full study here.

In summary.

When someone, a gym instructor, a personal trainer, a friend, a health adviser, or even a medical authority, tells you that exercise will help you lose weight, I invite you to challenge them.

Ask them how much weight they think exercise will help you lose and watch them ignore your question, squirm, or outright invent stuff.

If they disagree with the study above then have them send their research proof to me. No one has yet.

Bust the myth-making.

Truth is that yes, on average, exercise will lose you weight. Just not much.

-Dr Martin Russell

20 thoughts on “Exercise For Weight Loss”

  1. Enjoyed the article and you make a very important point about weight loss. I don’t like those calorie counters on exercise machines which give you a false idea about what you are actually doing.

    Of course toning exercise also increases muscle mass which is heavier than fat but it can also increase appetite (meaning you end up eating more that you would normally).

    Exercise can only form a part of any weight loss program. A sensible diet coupled with good exercise should be the norm for us all.

    I would only add to your article to say that exercise has many other health benefits apart from weight loss.

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  4. Hi Chris,

    I did say “Exercise tones up your muscles, improves your heart, is a more effective mood enhancer than anti-depressants, helps you live longer, among other benefits. Pretty important if you ask me.”

    So I think I covered it there.


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  8. This is good information to know. Thanks for your contribution to Take Charge of Your Health Care.

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  12. I have recently begun to expect this notion. I am a competitive mountain biker. I lose more weight when I decrease my food intake than when I increase my exercise frequency. However, I do “feel” more healthy when I exercise more. Check out what I wrote here http://www.mylifeswork.org/simple-weight-loss-part-1/ you may find it interesting

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  14. Cardiovascular type exercises are exercises that elevate your heart rate and keep it raised for an extended period. Some examples of exercise that do this are walking, jogging, swimming and riding a bike. The best exercises for weight loss involve using multiple muscle groups, as this causes more fat to be burnt. Research has shown that the best exercise for weight loss out of all the cardio exercises is jogging.

  15. Jesse & Dennis- nice notes.

    Jeremy – evidence please. Theory is wonderful, but you need to point me to the actual ‘research’ just like I did for my information.

  16. Besides watching your calories, studies show that exercise is one of the most powerful tools for weight loss. The calories you burn during cardio and strength training help you lose weight, prevent future weight gain, and avoid obesity.

  17. Martin Russell says:

    Um Jeet – did you read the post?

    And what studies are you referring to that show what you claim? Did the Cochrane Collaboration miss them?

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