When it comes to weight loss it’s important to move it to lose it! The benefits of exercise for
weight loss go beyond just burning calories. An active lifestyle helps to
balance the calorie scale when discussing calories in versus calories out. Most
research supports that food intake has more of a critical role in weight loss
than exercise but individuals that are able to maintain a healthy exercise
regimen have greater success with keeping lost weight off over time. Let’s look
at 4 roles physical activity plays in weight loss besides burning calories.
1. Building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscle
mass is the calorie burning center of our bodies. Individuals with higher
muscle mass burn more calories at rest. When someone goes on a diet, restricts
their calories, and doesn’t include physical activity, the body will start to
lose muscle mass. This lowers the metabolic rate making it harder to lose
weight and keep it off. This also leads to an increased likelihood for quick weight
gain after stopping a diet. Muscle mass is much harder to regain after losing
it as well.
2. Decreasing stress. The effects of stress on our body can
make the goal of losing weight extremely difficult. Too much stress can lead to
overeating or poor food choices. It also raises hormones in our bodies, such as
cortisol, which may promote fat storage in the body. Luckily, exercise is a
natural way to bust stress.
3. Improving sleep. Current
research suggests that sleep deprivation may lead to increased body fat and may
be a risk for obesity. Poor sleep can also lead to having less energy for
physical activity and making poorer food choices. Hormonal changes that result
from sleep loss can lead to increased hunger and decreased fullness signals
which can negatively impact weight loss efforts. Luckily, there is solid
evidence that regular physical activity can improve sleep quality and the
amount of shut eye you can achieve.
4. Promoting a healthier mind-set. When someone is exercising,
they tend to have a healthier outlook when it comes to other aspects of their
well-being. This may extend to food choices, self-care, emotional health, etc.
Be careful not to take this mindset in the opposite direction and think of
exercise as an excuse to add in an extra treat.
The National Institutes of Health recommends at least 150 minutes
of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic
activity every week to promote a healthy weight. To lose weight the
recommendations state you may need to increase this amount. You don’t need a
fancy gym membership or expensive equipment, any activity that you enjoy and
gets your heart rate up will help you experience all of the benefits above to
lose weight and improve your overall health.