Does exercise help with weight loss?

Plus: Big meat is a big problem.

Wednesday. The FDA approved a new drug that could help people with milk, egg, and nut allergies experience less severe reactions if exposed (SEE IT HERE). Imagine that—the joy of enjoying a scoop of peanut butter ice cream or a deviled egg for the first time. Just kidding—the company behind the drug still recommends avoiding those foods. How many people do you think will just take the drug and roll the dice? Yikes. 

Moving on to one of our favorite publications and our go-to for ridiculous grey-hair-inducing headlines, Vox is back with this doozy:

So, what does the actual article say, and is there any truth to this statement? Let’s dive in.


Should You Exercise To Lose Weight?

Working Out Richard Simmons GIF

“Should you exercise to lose weight?” is the wrong question. Moving our bodies is a necessity for anyone looking to optimize their health. Daily exercise should be a non-negotiable, regardless of whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or maintain a healthy body composition. 

This is why a headline that reads: Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies, is so dang frustrating. If you don’t read the entire article and go through the nuance of the point they are trying to make, you would think Vox is trying to discourage people from exercising. So, let’s break down what they actually had to say. 

In today's world, where a quick fitness fix is more appealing than ever, there's a common narrative that suggests we can eat whatever we want as long as we work out. Again, it seems obvious, but that is not the case. You can’t out-train a bad diet. But that doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater and say something like, “You shouldn’t exercise to lose weight.” 

Exercise is great for health. Cardiovascular training keeps our hearts healthy, and resistance training helps us maintain muscle and bone density as we age. That said, exercise shouldn’t be viewed as some magic solution for shedding excess pounds. This idea of hitting the gym to burn off last night's dinner is where most people get things wrong. The reality is a lot more complex.

Research has shown that our bodies are incredibly efficient at regulating energy. When we increase our physical activity, our bodies find ways to adjust by changing how much energy we use for other tasks. Experts argue that our bodies have a set point for energy expenditure, which doesn't change much, even when we exercise.

For example, you might jump on an exercise bike and peddle for an hour. Your watch tells you that you burned X calories. But now, you move slower throughout the day; you may fidget less and take fewer steps. Your body might even have you blink less throughout the day—all to conserve energy. This can easily compensate for the extra X calories you burned on the bike. 

But again, the part the headline ignores is that none of this means we should throw away our sneakers and our Lulus. Exercise has countless benefits, from improving heart health to reducing the risk of diabetes and mental health issues. The problem arises when we view exercise as a license to eat without limits. That mindset can lead us to consume more calories than we need, undermining our efforts to lose weight.

Of course, the food industry has played a role in perpetuating the myth that exercise can counterbalance poor dietary choices. Major companies promote their products alongside messages encouraging physical activity, implying that you can offset your calorie intake with enough exercise. However, losing weight and keeping it off requires a closer look at what we eat, not just how much we move.

The most intriguing point brought up in the Vox article is the role of compensatory behaviors. After exercising, it's not uncommon to feel hungrier or to justify indulging as a reward for a hard workout. These behaviors can cancel out the calories burned during exercise, making people spin their wheels and get nowhere in their weight loss journey. 

The key takeaway?  In a world of click-bait headlines, it is always important to read the whole article. While exercise is vital for overall health, it's not a standalone solution for weight loss. We can all agree there. Our diets play a much more significant role in our ability to shed pounds. No matter how hard you try, you can't out-exercise a bad diet. 

That said, to say that you shouldn’t exercise to lose weight, even if it is just an attention-grabbing headline, is irresponsible and just plain wrong. You should exercise if you want to lose weight. You should exercise if you want to build muscle. You should exercise if you want to be healthy. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 


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