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Exercise: Does It Help Weight Loss? Why Do It?


Many of us are familiar with the phrase, “Eat less, move more,” which is certainly good advice, but which is actually more critical when it comes to weight loss? Of course, we should all exercise for the benefit of our overall health, but how much of an impact does an exercise routine have on one’s aspirations to shed off some pounds? The truth is that your diet has more of an influence on the number you see on your scale. This does not mean you should forego activity, but do not rely solely on the gym for your lean figure and neglect your food choices, because no matter how active you are, you cannot outrun a poor diet.

Why are exercise-focused weight loss programs not as effective as diet-focused programs? Here are some reasons:

  • In the grand scheme of things, calorie expenditure through exercise is relatively minor. Most of your calories are spent by simply just being alive, otherwise known as the resting metabolic rate. Calories are also spent digesting and absorbing dietary intake, fidgeting, even getting out of bed. When you add exercise into the picture, it is just one small dent. That does not mean it is ok to live a sedentary lifestyle, but in terms of weight loss goals, exercise should not be where the focus is.
  • People tend to be terrible at estimating intake and outtake, which several studies have revealed. In one study, subjects were asked to exercise, estimate caloric expenditure, and then taken to a buffet where they were asked to consume the amount of food they believed they burned in calories. They wound up eating at least two to three times the amount of calories they burned during their workout. Additionally, people who work out tend to feel that it is acceptable to reward themselves with more food, which leads to a surplus of calories rather than the desired deficit.

Exercise and dieting are not either-or choices. You should absolutely incorporate exercise into your routine, but if your goal is weight loss, you need to pay closer attention to your eating habits rather than focusing on “working off” bad food choices. This also does not mean you should starve yourself. To the contrary, you should be focused on eating healthy foods that promote your weight loss goals, such as lean animal foods, water-rich whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nonfat dairy.

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