You CAN EASILY lose weight without exercise. TV commercials for gym memberships would have you believe that exercise is THE centerpiece of any weight loss plan. But that’s because they’re selling something.
I’m not saying exercise isn’t good for you, or that you shouldn’t exercise. Personally I’m a fitness nut and I exercise almost every day.
Lose Weight Without Exercise: Just COUNT THE CALORIES
But CALORIES are the driving factor in weight loss, and exercise doesn’t burn nearly the calories that people think. That’s why it is possible to lose weight without exercise.
In the Exercise and Weight Loss section I deal more fully with the subject of what kinds of exercises can be the most helpful in weight loss, but here I want to dispel any notion that exercise is MANDATORY.
The Diet AND Exercise Myth
I’ve been a runner for over 40 years, and almost everyone who knows me knows I’m a runner. Because of this, I know the perception. “Why do YOU have to watch what you eat? You run”, as though running and being careful about what I eat are mutually exclusive concepts.
I can think of three reasons that exercise, especially the long-duration cardio variety, can actually be COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE to weight loss:
Psychological reason cardio can hinder your weight loss
When someone has that deeply ingrained belief that they cannot lose weight without exercise and that exercise is the centerpiece of any weight loss program, that ingrained belief almost always leads them to be less careful with the calories. For example, if you’re not really a runner and you go out and run three miles, it will feel like torture. You will instinctively and subconsciously feel that something that hurts that much has to be burning a TON of calories.
And then, after you’ve run and cleaned up and it’s time to eat, you’ll be thinking “Let’s order a pizza. I ran today, I’ve earned it.”
Cardio doesn’t burn THAT many calories
The calories burned during an exercise like running aren’t really enough to offset the calories you could just avoid in the first place.
For example, ONE SLICE of a moderately loaded large Papa John’s pizza has 350-400 calories. Running burns around 0.76 calories per pound per mile. So if you weigh 180 lbs., running three miles burns 410 calories.
But wait, it gets worse. Just sitting on the couch burns around 90 calories per hour for that 180 lb. person. So if that 3 mile run takes a half hour, it only has a net calorie burn of 365. That’s the 410 burned running minus the 45 calories you would burn doing nothing.
So if you run three miles, you burn the calories contained in ONE SLICE of pizza and the whole run was a wash. You could have stayed home and watched TV and not eaten the pizza and had the same weight loss. But really, if you feel like you’ve “earned” that pizza treat with your brutal run, are you really going to have only ONE SLICE?
Well, if you do have the self-control to have only that one slice, and not even one additional bread stick, then that brutal run was just a zero gain, zero loss. But if you splurged and went for the second slice AND a bread stick, well, then that brutal run caused you to GAIN WEIGHT!
Cardio triggers appetite
Long-duration cardio like running does burn some calories, but it also can trigger an APPETITE that you may not be able to resist.
If you did no exercise at all it would completely remove these three barriers, and enable you to lose weight without exercise.
If you already run (or already regularly participate in another long-duration cardio exercise), keep it up. Otherwise don’t worry. Adding it probably will not help as much as you think, and it may even harm your weight loss efforts.
NOTE: I’m not telling you to not exercise. I’m just saying that you really can lose weight without exercise.
BUT, if you do want to try exercising to improve your health and possibly best contribute to your weight loss and fitness goals, make sure to read my more complete discussion at Exercise and Weight Loss.
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