How Exercise Helps Us Maintain and Lose Weight
If you’ve ever heard “move more, eat less” or “energy in, energy out” you know that at the most basic level we need to burn more calories than we consume to lose weight. So how exactly does exercise play a part?
Exercise and Caloric Deficits
Both of the phrases above refer to a caloric deficit, which means either reducing the amount of calories you eat, burning energy (both by living and breathing and by physical activity), or both.
That brings us to the question: Is exercise a must when it comes to weight loss? Technically, no. If you typically eat 2000 calories every day and cut down to 1000 calories you’ll lose weight over time. But by making such a drastic change in the way you eat, you may not get enough of the healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein you need to function.
Regular exercise, on the other hand, is the great balancer that can help you achieve and sustain weight loss without turning to extreme dietary measures. Upping your activity allows you to be in a deficit without slashing all your meals down to minuscule portions. But calorie burn is just one of the many benefits of working out. Sticking to it and logging a few sweat sessions per week can boost your energy and help you sleep better—thereby helping you knock out subsequent workouts—and encourage you to make healthier choices in the kitchen (amongst dozens of other notable benefits).
One other very important part of the energy balance equation has to do with muscle. Losing weight solely by cutting calories often leads to significant muscle loss. Regular exercise—especially strength training—plus eating plenty of healthy, nourishing foods can help you maintain and grow muscle. And that matters because more muscle means you’ll burn more calories at rest.
Exercise Won’t Always Make Up for Unhealthy Habits
Working out is a great way to support weight loss, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle (in fact research suggests that exercise alone isn’t an effective weight loss tool). It all comes down to finding the right balance of nutrient dense foods and types of movement you enjoy.