The Role of Exercise in Weight Loss
Mathematically you can design an exercise schedule for yourself that burns enough calories to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. While this works on paper, the level of exercise commitment such a regimen requires is not sustainable for the vast majority of people, especially if it is started all at once. Several panels of experts have looked at all of the evidence and reached the conclusion that while exercise is extremely important, it does not lead to significant weight loss on its own.
This does not mean that it is a waste of time to exercise. Exercise is one of the healthiest things that you can do for yourself. Even a moderate activity like walking for thirty minutes every day at a comfortable pace will burn an additional 200 calories. True, this is not enough activity to cause a dramatic drop in your weight, but it will give your weight loss a boost. Additionally, the few hundred calories that are burned with regular physical activity compensate for adding a bit more food to the eating plan during weight loss. That can make the difference between a diet that feels as if it’s depriving and a weight-loss program that is livable.
It is important to have realistic expectations about what exercise can and cannot do for weight loss. During the early days and weeks of weight loss, scheduling exercise is a way to help organize the day. About 200 to 300 calories burned during exercise can give weight loss a bit of a push. Exercise also helps boost mood and helps control stress, as noted earlier in the chapter. At a time when living a healthier lifestyle is foremost in your mind, physical activity can be a bright spot in the day.
So watch out for the trap in thinking that exercise alone will be enough for weight loss—that is a setup for disappointment. People who expect a lot of weight loss from exercise alone may become so discouraged that they give up their goal of losing weight or stop exercising altogether.