Nothing is as frustrating to overweight people trying to lose weight as the failure of their exercise to help weight loss, especially when they are working hard and eating less.
The usual thinking that all one has to do is eat less and exercise more may not be so simple. There are so many people who exercise regularly and do not lose weight that other explanations need to be considered. John Cloud, in his recent Time Magazine cover article discussed many of the reasons for this dichotomy. His article raised considerable uproar in the workout crowd.
Here are 6 more reasons that may explain the failure of exercise to produce weight loss in many overweight people:
1. Exercises increases appetite, especially for high-fat, pleasing, energy dense foods some of which have been voluntarily restricted.
2. Inappropriate food choices and food rewards often follow exercise. Some of these choices may be voluntary, others more passive such as a slightly increase in food portions.
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3. Confusion about the calories consumed after exercise relative to the calories expended with the exercise. Example, it takes about 2 minutes to eat a high calorie muffin which might take 90 minutes to burn on a treadmill. This tremendous discrepancy in time and effort to burn the calories in a healthy appearing bran muffin leads to mistakes about exercise vs. calories consumed.
4. Reduction in NEAT following increase in voluntary exercise. NEAT, the exercise that occurs with daily activities may be unconsciously decreased following vigorous exercise. Several studies have shown that in children in school exercise programs may burn no more calories over a 24 hour period in those with no planned activity.
5. Exercise may decrease metabolism. Similar to the reduction in metabolism seen with food restrictions, exercise may actually decrease metabolism to preserve body weight. Apparently, there are biological compensatory mechanisms to prevent what the body sees as a starvation process.
6. Exercise may induce fatigue. Fatigue due to vigorous exercise may increase sleep time and “rewards” the individual with increase leisure time.
Whether due to metabolic and therefore involuntary compensations or the result of a “reward” mentality, the failure of exercise to promote weight loss is a very individual response. One-size-fits all exercise programs may not be appropriate for everyone. Of course exercise is important not only for psychological well being, but for cardiovascular, bone and muscle health. The only issue is what kind, how often, and how much is enough.
Requiring a 60 year old teacher who sits all day to go to the gym four or five times a week ruins the whole program. Asking her to park far away from the entrance to her school building, and go to the mall and walk around is not unrealisitic. This is the kind of moving about that overweight people can understand and accomplish and not feel guilty.