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Time Magazine Article: Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin

August 15 2009

If you been an ardent reader of Exercise Biology, you would have been aware of this before your read the controversial article titled “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin”  in the August issue of the Time magazine.


I had written an article titled ” Is Exercise or Cardio Exaggerated in Losing Weight” a few months back. And the August issue of the Time magazine talks exactly the same as the article I wrote.

The main points talked about in the article are:

1. People usually compensate for calories burned with exercise by moving less or eating more
2. Muscle burns only 6 -13 calories/kg/day. It’s not 150 kcal as most trainers say!
3. Exercise burns very less calories than what most people believe.


According to the article, it’s what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight.

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Kelly | Fri October 16, 2009  

I disagree with this article.  It has been proven that weight loss is simply attributed with calories in vs calories out.  To achieve weightloss you need to have a calorie deficit, usually only 100 calories less a day should help you loose a healthy 1kg per week.  This should also be in conjunction with moderate exercise working at 75% of your max heart rate for at least 30 - 45 mins per day.

Anoop | Fri October 16, 2009  

Hi Kelly,

Yes, weight loss is all about calories in vs out. But I don’t see anywhere in the article refuting that. All it is saying is that exercise do not burn a lot of calories as people think of. And the title is a bit overblown which is expected.

Are you saying a total calorie deficit of 100cals will help you lose 1 kg or 2 lb per week?

And why do you say 75% of your heart rate ?

Rohit | Tue December 22, 2009  

You meant 1000 calorie deficit/day right? (So 7000 calorie deficit/week or 2lbs of fat burnt/week. Of course, 1lb of muscle burns only 600 calories, so it is possible to lose more weight with muscle loss alongwith fat lost; which is why it is good to weight train when you are dieting; the chances of you losing muscle mass would significantly reduce, so you would look better).

Or did you mean 100 calorie deficit alongwith the exercise which would miraculously burn 900 cals to create a 1000 calorie deficit?

Another thing to consider is that a 1000-calorie deficit on a diet alone could be too extreme for a person with low BMR (say 1300 is the BMR; then they would have to eat just 500-800 cals/day;). In such a case, exercise(and being generally more active) could benefit them by adding another 200-500 calorie deficit.

Anoop | Thu December 24, 2009  

Hi Rohit,

It has been shown that one lb of muscle will burn around 6-10 calories per day. The old estimate of 100 & 60 were all wrong.

Rohit | Thu December 24, 2009  

Hi Anoop,
Maybe I wasn’t clear, I am aware of 6-10 calories per day estimate. What I meant was, just as you need over 3500 calories deficit to burn 1 lb of fat , you need only 600 calorie deficit to burn 1 lb of muscle.

So, if you are on an extreme diet with no weight training, it is possible that you would lose lots of muscle too, so your overall weight loss would be higher. ( For a 3500 calorie deficit, you would lose almost 6lbs of weight instead of 1 lb of fat if you lose only muscle, which of course is a rather unlikely scenario. But you get the point).

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