There are many terrific benefits to your health that can be gained by exercising but weight loss may not be one of them. There is an interesting new study that shows that a large proportion of people who begin to exercise end up even heavier than they were before they started. Worst of all, the new weight is mainly fat rather than muscle.
But, as one study noted, there is one easy way to improve your chances of dropping rather than adding pounds when you exercise.
The fundamentals of losing weight are clear to all of us so it should be easy to lose weight. Just burn more calories every day and you will lose weight as time goes by. In theory, you should be able to create this calorie deficit by either taking in fewer calories or incinerating more with exercise.
Sadly, the truth is that most people never lose the weight or they fail to maintain the weight loss regardless of which method they use.
This is particularly a problem with regard to exercise. Recently there was a study review that looked for a link between weight control and exercise. It found that most people only lost a third of the amount of weight that they had hoped for considering the number of calories their workouts should have been burning. There are other studies which note that there are huge variations in the waistline improvements of people even though they were doing the same program. Some people will lose weight while others just seem to gain fat.
Scientifically there does not seem to be an understanding of the reasons why exercise is helpful to some people but not others. It is also difficult to tell how one particular individual will respond to exercise.
Last month, a study was published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which said that Arizona State University scientists selected 81 adult women who were healthy but had a sedentary lifestyle. The women were all overweight as measured by their body mass index. However, some weighed considerably more than others. None of the women had been exercising on a regular basis during the most recent year.
The scientists told the women that they were signing up for a fitness study and that they would be exercising to make improvements to their aerobic endurance. The women were told not to make any changes to their eating habits.
Each volunteer was sent to the physiology lab at the beginning of the study and their current level of endurance, B.M.I., weight, percentage of body fat and other indicators of fitness and health were measured.
After that, each woman was put on an exercise program that was supervised and meant to be brisk, but still manageable by most women, according to Glenn Gaesser who is senior author of the study and is at Arizona State as a professor of nutrition and health promotion. The women went to the laboratory three times a week to walk on treadmills for 30 minutes. Their pace was set at 80% of their maximum endurance.
This program went on for 12 weeks with monthly fitness tests and other measurements happening during that time.
After 12 weeks, all of the women were considerably more fit aerobically than at the beginning of the program. However, many of them now had more fat on their bodies. Approximately 70% had gained some fat mass while pursuing the program with several having gained up to 10 pounds, primarily from fat, not muscle.
At the same time, there were a few women who had lost that same amount of fat or even more. There were also several women who stayed the same weight that they had been before they began the program.
The researchers then looked back at the data from the day the study began to try to determine if there was any connection between what each woman weighed at the start and at the finish of the study. They found that there was no correlation with any parameters for fitness and health from when the study began and the way the women responded to the exercise.
After digging deeper into the data, the researchers did find one indicator that was interesting. All of those women who did lose weight after exercising for four weeks went on to lose more weight and the others did not lose anymore.
In practical terms, this means that if someone is trying to lose weight by exercising they should weight themselves at least once a month, according to Dr. Gaesser. If your weight does not change or has gone up, you should closely examine the food you eat and the activities that you are doing.
Of course, this study was not tracking the movement and eating habits of the women away from the lab. But it is quite likely that those who had gained were moving less and eating more when not on the treadmill, noted Dr. Gaesser.
This was a short-term study and it did not include any men, but there were other studies that show that men, just like women, often add fat to their bodies after they begin to exercise.
While this result is somewhat sobering, it is also encouraging. If someone just uses the bathroom scale and a small amount of discipline, combined with exercise, they most likely will lose weight.
More important, all of the women who participated in the study were a great deal more fit after they had exercised for four months and Dr. Gaesser says that this fitness is more important for health than how much the women weighed.