Are you trying to put the manufacturers of cardio out of business? Your latest article debunk’s another myth popular to the mainstream fitness enthusiast. I think there is a perception, that if I work up a sweat, I will lose weight. However, I witness dozens of people making little progress with their 3X week cardio routines. Nonetheless, this illusion makes health clubs money.
Is Exercise or Cardio Exaggerated in Losing Weight?
April 11 2009
We know there are two ways to lose weight:
- Exercise/ Cardio
- Eat Less
But which is better? 99% of the people overestimate the ability of exercise (or cardio) to lose weight or/and underestimate the importance of diet in losing weight.
They have this notion that if they do cardio 3-4 days/week and eat a bit healthy (and of course eat small meals), they should just easily lose weight.
Is Exercise or Cardio Really Exaggerated in Losing Weight?
Exercise Studies: Research has repeatedly shown that exercise or cardio workout does a pretty poor job in losing weight. Believe it or not, most of the exercise studies ranging from six months to a year show a meager 1-12 lb weight loss. This is no where near to the “1-2 lb/week” we often hear about.
Exercise Studies Supporting Exercise: The couple of studies which did show greater weight loss with exercise had some brutal exercise protocol or had the participants restrict and monitor their diet. For example, one study showed 25lb loss in 5 months (around 1lb/week). And how many hours did the particpants have to train for this? An average of 29 hours per week (yes it’s per week)
So Why is Exercise or Cardio Not Great For Losing Weight?
1 lb of fat= 3500 calories
That is, if you want to burn 1 lb of fat in a week, you have to burn 3500 calories with exercise/cardio in a week.
Now let’s take the example of running since it’s a lot more energy intense than biking, elliptical training or swimming. If you can run at a pace of 5-6 miles/hr, you will burn around 500-600 calories ( for 150-160 lb body weight). So if you run for 7 days at this pace, you will burn I lb of fat. And that’s great. But the problem is that this never happens in reality. Why?
Too Intense: At least, 90% of the people who I see exercise at the gym do not even come close to an intensity of 5-6miles/hr pace. And people who can run at this pace, obviously, won’t have a bodyweight problem in the first place. The same applies for biking, elliptical, stepping or whatever cardio workout.
Joint Problems: Folks who grind their teeth and somehow manage to run 7 days/ week will usually end up with knee pain, especially if they are overweight or obese.
Adherence: It is so hard for someone with a regular job and other priorities in life to exercise 6-7 days/week. Most people drop out soon. And this is clearly shown in exercise studies which show high drop out rates.
Body Compensating: When you lose weight, your body has a nasty habit of compensating by:
- Increasing Hunger: The above weight loss of 1lb/week with running is assuming you are eating the same amount of calories day in and out.Have a small donut (300 - 350calories) - and you wasted 30 - 45min minutes of your running. If you don’t keep an approximate count of calories you eat, it is so easy to overeat and compensate for all the calories you burned with exercise.
- Decreasing Activity: You tend to sit around a lot more than you used to. In research they call it spontaneous physical activity. So you workout but come home and lie on the couch or watch TV or somehow try to move the least.
However, If you can magically overcome the problems above, you can lose weight with just exercise.
- You can lose a lot of weight with just diet and no exercise/cardio.
- A combination of diet and exercise/cardio is the best for weight loss.
- Exercise/cardio becomes more important in maintaining the lost weight than losing weight.
Anoop | Mon April 13, 2009
Exactly. People think that if show up to the gym a few times, watch TV and do some cardio, do some walking lunges, they should just easily melt away fat.
Everyone sort of know diet is important. But they just don’t know how less calories they burn with exercise/cardio.
There are lot of benefits to exercise to keep doing it like cardiovascular, insulin sensitivty, endurance and stuff. But when it comes to weight loss, I guess for most people it is better to use that time to plan their diet and grocery list.
The forum should be working now. Sorry
Have a small doubt regarding the calorie burnt for 5-6 mph run.Is the 500-600 calorie inclusive of you BMR? (ie. Can it be taken as an additional 500-600 calorie expended when you calculate? Is it correct that you would burn on an avg around 90-100 cals/hr simply on account of BMR?)
Also could you please help me with any site/link which provides a decent approx. of calories burnt for some common exercises or activity (taking into account bodyweight etc)?
Anoop | Wed December 23, 2009
Calories burned during exercise or activity is seperate from BMR (RMR to be precise).
It really depends on how much muscle you carry. Check this article: http://www.exercisebiology.com/index.php/site/articles/which_equation_to_calculate_my_daily_maintenance_calories/
Here is one for you: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/energyexp.htm
And you are welcome to register in the forum.
Thanks for the links.
I checked my RMR using the calculators(Came out 1901,1807 and 1947 resp. with FFM being approx. found using US Navy Body Fat calculator).
I will check out the forum soon. Thanks for replying to my comments so fast
sorry but your not taking in consideration post workout calorie loss based on your cardio exercise, you also fail to miss the health benefits of a cardio workout vs none! of course a healthy diet and exercise together produce the best results. Building muscle also stokes metabolism so that your diet is efficiently burning the calories you eat later in the day… Dont write off cardio and light weight training gang just keep an eye on what you what you eat!