To lose weight you have to burn more calories than you eat. You can create this negative energy balance in two ways: burn more calories by exercising or eat fewer calories. Which way is better for weight loss?
Studies show that you can lose weight without exercise just as much as you would with exercise, given the equal energy balance. So there’s no inherent benefit to weight loss with exercise. That being the case, how you choose to lose weight is a matter of preference.
However consider the following points:
- It’s far easier to cut calories with diet than exercise. 1 hour of walking burns about 300 calories, whereas skipping a Big Mac saves you 560 calories.
- Most people cannot burn sufficient amount of calories with exercise alone. To burn 500 calories you need to jog for 45 to 60 minutes. Can you do this? Every day?
- Exercise protects your metabolic rate. As you cut calories your metabolism slows to compensate (the body doesn’t want to lose its fat reserves). Exercise helps to keep your metabolic rate higher, allowing you to burn more calories and lose weight faster.
- Exercise makes you feel better about yourself and reduces stress, making it much easier to stick to your diet.
- Exercise makes you hungry, but studies show that the extra calories people eat as a result of exercise are less than what they burned while exercising. So exercise is a negative calorie activity.
- Exercise is critically important in weight loss maintenance. People who exercise are far less likely to regain the weight.
In summary, whether you choose to lose weight with diet, exercise or both is a matter of choice. Exercise per se doesn’t help you to lose weight faster. But it has been a standard recommendation for weight loss for decades, because it supports weight loss. Furthermore, there is one thing that’s common in people who successfully maintain weight loss of 10 lbs. or more: they all exercise regularly. So perhaps it’s better to start the habit early.