09: You Have to Exercise to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

Despite what every fitness center in America will tell you, exercise alone is not a good weight loss strategy.  Even if you take up marathon training you are unlikely to lose more than 1-2% of your body weight over the course of one year.  There are multiple explanations for this including lean mass gain (muscle), compensatory eating (a physiological hunger or psychological “need to eat”) or an increase in time spent sitting outside of your planned exercise.

While all of those explanations are valid, there is an easier explanation:  it is really, really easy to consume calories but very difficult to burn them.  Restricting calories through dieting is really hard, yet it is mathematically easier to restrict far more calories than you can burn through exercise.  Again, this is why dieting (caloric restriction) will result in slightly more weight loss over the course of one year than exercise alone.

Ideally, you will combine diet (caloric restriction) with exercise (energy expenditure) to lose weight as together they are more effective than diet or exercise alone.  So what type of exercise should you do to lose weight?

There are literally one million variations of exercise and people become obsessed with trying to manipulate these variables to maximize your exercise output/efficiency.  You can exercise multiple times/day, mornings or evenings, multiple times per week, at low, moderate or vigorous intensities, you can do high-intensity interval training, you can do 30 second sprints or a 30-minute walk, you can swim, bike, run, lift weights, mountain bike, do yoga, dance, or engage in one of hundreds of sports.

In exercise physiology we can prescribe you exercise by the FITT equation.

Frequency: how often you exercise, often expressed on a weekly basis

Intensity: how vigorous your individual training session is

Time: how many minutes you train per session or week

Type: mode of exercise – cardio, strength training, CrossFit

You can get totally and completely lost in the weeds trying to figure out what’s best for you or you could follow two simple rules

  1. What type or types of exercise do you enjoy? They don’t have to be traditional exercises like weightlifting, they could be taking the dog for a walk, riding your bike around town or roller skating.  Provided you are moving, anything counts (but something like fishing does not quality – too much sitting).
  2. Try to work your way up to 300 minutes/week. Research shows that the people who are the most successful at losing weight and keeping it off exercise for 300 minutes/week.  This is a monumental task if you are new to exercise, but we could encourage you to start where you’re at, even if that’s only 30 minutes/week and work your way up to 300.  We’d encourage you to increase your exercise minutes each week by no more than 10-15%.  Increasing your exercise minutes more quickly than this could lead to soft-tissue injury and then you won’t be able to exercise at all.

If you don’t enjoy the type of exercise, you’re doing you’re not going to stick with it so it is paramount that you find a type of exercise that you like to do or at the very least don’t mind doing.

At The Science of Dieting, we do not provide you with an exercise routine; however, we partner with Phoenix Fitness Denver and The Brave Chicken, both of whom can provide you with extensive online exercise programming and coaching.  We would also encourage you to check out our Lifestyle Reboot program, which is a collaboration between Phoenix Fitness and The Science of Dieting.

The Brave Chicken provides strength and endurance training to everyone from people who have never exercised to Olympic trials qualifying marathon runners.  The Brave Chicken has a background in working with runners but has also worked with people from all ages and demographics (i.e., kids, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged, geriatric).  I went to college with Jeff, the owner of The Brave Chicken, and have kept in close contact with him ever since both personally and professionally.  I love this guy, he’s great!

In brief, Phoenix Fitness Denver works with clients who have a lot of weight to lose (i.e., 100 pounds or more) and specializes in working with clients who have undergone bariatric (weight loss) surgery.  You do not have to have had weight loss surgery to work with Phoenix Fitness.  I’ve known the owner of Phoenix Fitness, Geof, for several years now, have done some podcasting with him, and many, many happy hours.  Geof is a supremely good listener and coach.

Both of these companies are excellent choices if you are looking to lose weight and both can also work remotely with you.

In our next section (10), The First Three Months of Your Diet Will Determine How Much You Weigh Years From Now, we would like to explain why the first three months of your diet are BY FAR the most important.