Article by Ashley Finkel, Nutrition Student and Intern at Open Space Clinic.

This topic is often very controversial. Some believe that exercise plays a vital role in weight loss, while others believe that exercise is insignificant on its own.

There is one thing we do know for sure: exercise offers so many health benefits. Exercise can do wonders for the body; regular physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and even some cancers. It has also shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in healthy adults. After hearing all that, who wouldn’t want to exercise? 

Now that we know how effective physical activity is in preventing major chronic disease and mental illness, let’s move on to the question you have all been waiting for: does exercise help you lose weight? To answer this question, let’s look at the evidence.

Fat Loss vs Muscle Loss 

When you reduce the number of calories you eat without increasing your physical activity, you lose fat, but you lose muscle as well. When you include exercise in your weight loss plan, it can reduce the amount of muscle you lose. Retaining muscle will work in opposition with fat loss and avoid the drop in your metabolic rate that you experience when you lose weight. Therefore, it will be easier to keep off the weight, which is what we’re all hoping for! 

Cardio 

Whether it’s the treadmill, the spin bike or a simple walk to the park, we’re all familiar with the famous cardio workout, also known as aerobic exercise. Cardio has been very successful in helping people burn calories; however, it plays little role in affecting muscle mass. A study done in 2012 demonstrated that aerobic exercise alone, without any calorie restriction, was extremely effective in increasing weight loss for overweight and obese men and women. Many other studies have been done as well to show the beneficial outcomes of cardio; loss of liver fat, loss of visceral fat (belly fat) and so much more. 

Resistance Training 

Think weightlifting or body weight training—these are examples of resistance training. Resistance training can increase the strength and/or endurance of your muscles as well as burn calories. Increasing the amount of muscle you have, can increase your metabolism, which allow s you to burn more calories continuously—even when you’re taking a rest on the couch. What you can take from this is: cardio is important, but resistance training can be just as, if not more important! Both types of exercise can help you lose weight, but resistance training can help you keep off the weight, which is the hardest part of weight loss!

Does Exercise Help You Lose Weight? 

The truth is: different methods work for different people. While most individuals find exercise to be very effective in weight loss, some find that they don’t lose any weight. Maybe changing your diet will be more effective for you! Most of the evidence shows that a strategy including both a healthy diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. In the end, consistency is key. Try to stay motivated and stick to a plan that works for you!  

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