If exercising to lose weight is one of your New Year’s resolutions, congratulations on making a commitment to yourself in 2022! We have a bit of bad news, though. One of the most commonly held misconceptions about weight loss is that increased amounts of exercise and burning more calories will yield quick and noticeable results.
The truth is, weight loss isn’t that simple. Buying that gym membership or a new piece of equipment and showing up three or four times a week doesn’t mean the pounds will start to fall off. Especially if you haven’t changed your eating habits.
Regular activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But exercise essentially maintains your current weight, unless you also start to cut your caloric intake. That’s because what’s going on in your kitchen is even more important than what’s going on at the gym.
When you take a look at the research surrounding exercise and weight loss, you’ll find that the results are quite underwhelming. In one 2007 study, researchers told 196 men and women to exercise one hour a day, six days per week for an entire year.
Study compliance was quite impressive, as only seven participants dropped out. The data showed that over the course of the year, the men averaged 6.16 hours of weekly exercise, while the women averaged 4.9 hours per week.
In a year that included 320 hours of exercise, the men lost an average of 3.5 pounds. For the women, 254 hours of exercise yielded an average loss of 2.6 pounds.
Exercise has a number of benefits–both mentally and physically. But, weight loss really isn’t one of them.
If you want to see results on the scale, your focus this year should be on what you are putting into your body. What and how much you eat and drink is the number one driver of weight loss.
The dietary guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture recommend 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000 to 3,000 per calories per day for adult men for weight maintenance. If you want to lose weight, you should increase your activity and cut down your calorie intake to produce a caloric deficit.
According to the numbers, a 500 calorie deficit per day will result in a steady, one-pound per week rate of weight loss. That’s more than 50 pounds in a year!
But, it’s not just about calories. Paying attention to your macros—protein, fat, and carbohydrates—and consuming clean food is also important. Avoiding processed foods and sugar and, instead, following a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will lead to the pounds falling off.
If you’re committed to losing weight this year, try a food tracking app or fitness tracker to get an idea of how many calories you are putting in your body each day. As well as how many you are burning.
Cutting your caloric intake to create a deficit, being aware of your macros, avoiding processed foods and sugar, eating clean, and staying active will result in weight loss. No fad diet or gym membership required.