Recently I came across an article on exercise which will help set you straight if you believe you must live at the gym or run marathons to lose weight. Rather than pushing a weight loss focus here, I’m sharing some enlightening and surprising research on exercise and shedding pounds. I’m a firm believer that the primary purpose for activity and exercise should be fitness, good health, and enjoying body movement.
“Less exercise may do more to shed pounds” by Gretchen Reynolds (NY Times, 9/25/12) offers an unexpected take on exercise. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark “found that exercise does seem to contribute to waist-tightening, provided that the amount of exercise is neither too little nor, more strikingly, too much.” For the study, participants, all male, were discouraged from consciously changing their diets and divided into one control group which didn’t exercise, one which did moderate workouts, and another which engaged in a strenuous exercise routine.
At the end of the 13-week study, there was no difference in the weight of the control group. The surprise outcome was that the men in the strenuous exercise group lost less weight than the ones in the moderate exercise group. Why? Researchers surmise that the difference was due to the fact that the strenuous exercisers consumed more calories than the moderate exercisers and that the strenuous exercises were so fatigued after going through their routines that they then remained relatively inactive the rest of the time. Moreover, the moderate exercisers “seemed to grow more energized and inspired” to do activities such as “taking the stairs” and “just moving around more.”
This is fabulous news for those of you who wish to exercise but can’t make it your life’s work. Although many disregulated eaters have difficulty engaging in routine activity, others switch their “addiction” from eating to workouts believing, as with food, that more is better. Moreover, many disregulated eaters who wish to become healthier assume that if they can’t do a lot of exercise, it’s not worth doing any and, therefor, don’t bother. Each end of the spectrum highlights all-or-nothing thinking, a hallmark of disregulated eaters, which misses the middle ground of activity which would benefit them the most.
Whether you’re an over-exerciser replacing food with activity as a coping mechanism or an under-exerciser who ends up doing nothing because you can’t do it all, this article’s conclusions should set you straight and give you hope. Take time to consider how much exercise would be enough—just right—for you. Think mid-range, not maximum, and you’ll have a better shot at carrying your exercise plans to fruition.