We’ve all fallen for it because we hear it so often: Americans are overweight because they don’t exercise enough.
But what if it’s not true?
According to Aaron E. Carroll it’s absolutely not true. In his article To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More he makes a compelling case.
Think about it this way: If an overweight man is consuming 1,000 more calories than he is burning and wants to be in energy balance, he can do it by exercising. But exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories. Many people, fat or fit, can’t keep up a strenuous 30-minute exercise regimen, day in and day out. They might exercise a few times a week, if that.
It’s very easy to overestimate how many calories you burn during exercise.
This is especially a problem if you “reward” yourself with treat after your workout.
Exercise has many benefits, but there are problems with relying on it to control weight. First, it’s just not true that Americans, in general, aren’t listening to calls for more activity. From 2001 to 2009, the percentage of people who were sufficiently physically active increased. But so did the percentage of Americans who were obese.
We can only hope that the people who were more physically active were not also the ones who became obese.
Moreover, exercise increases one’s appetite. After all, when you burn off calories being active, your body will often signal you to replace them. Research confirms this. A 2012 systematic review of studies that looked at how people complied with exercise programs showed that over time, people wound up burning less energy with exercise than predicted and also increasing their caloric intake.
So, it’s actually possible to have a regular exercise program and still put on weight.
The real solution is to have a regular exercise program and to watch your food intake.
What if you can only do one of these? Then controlling what you eat is probably the most important element. Eating is more important than exercise for sustained weight loss.