Weight Loss Tips

The Myth of “Moderate” Exercise (for weight loss)

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By Laura Blue, Time Magazine

Obesity experts agree that daily exercise is essential for good health, but whether it can successfully lead to long-term weight loss is a question of much debate. What has become increasingly clear, however, is that the conventionally accepted advice —30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week — is probably insufficient to spur any real change in a person’s body weight. A study published July 28 in the Archives of Internal Medicine adds to the burgeoning scientific consensus: when it comes to exercise for weight loss, more is better. It suggests that obese people would have to exercise at least an hour at a time to see any significant difference in their weight.

The study, led by John Jakicic at the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh, followed nearly 200 overweight or obese women ages 21 to 45 through a two-year weight-loss program. The women were given free treadmills to use at home, regular group meetings and telephone pep talks to help keep them on track. Participants were also asked to restrict their food intake to between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day, and were randomized to one of four physical activity intervention groups based on energy expenditure (either 1,000 calories or 2,000 calories burned per week) and exercise intensity (high vs. moderate). By the end of the 24-month intervention, the women who managed to lose at least 10% of their starting body weight (which was, on average, about 193 lbs.) — and keep it offwere exercising twice as long as health authorities typically recommend and expending more than twice as many calories through exercise as women who had no change in body weight.

The biggest weight losers were active a full 68 minutes a day, five days a week (about 55 minutes a day more than they had been before the trial began), burning an extra 1,848 calories a week.

Jakicic and his colleagues originally designed their study to measure whether weight loss could really be achieved and maintained through moderate-intensity exercise, akin to “walking when you’re late for a meeting,” he says, or whether it was preferable to engage in shorter bursts of more vigorous-intensity activity, “like, when you’re late for the bus, chasing it down.” The problem was that not enough of the women stuck with their assigned exercise categories for the researchers to gather enough meaningful data. Within a few months, most of the participants had resorted to exercising as much as they chose to. That left researchers with a slightly different data set than they had planned for, but they were still able to associate women’s reported physical activity with their weight loss.

>>>***** Indeed, exercise was more strongly associated with weight loss than any other factor, including diet. Overall, the more the women exercised, the more weight they lost. *****i>{kat note: READ ^THAT^ AGAIN!!!}

More than half of the study participants managed to lose at least 10% of their body weight within the first six months. At the half-year mark, however, most of those women relapsed and started gaining the weight back — a discouragingly common phenomenon. “The major outcome of this paper is the maintenance issue,” Jakicic says. Once a patient hits her target weight, he says, it’s imperative that she stick with her exercise and diet regimen to maintain her new weight.

Still, the underlying question remains: are diet and exercise a reliable cure for obesity? Modern-day obesity researchers are skeptical — achieving thinness, they say, is not simply a matter of willpower. Research suggests that weight may largely be regulated by biology, which helps determine the body’s “set point,” a weight range of about 10 lbs. to 20 lbs. that the body tries hard to defend. The further you push you weight beyond your set point — either up or down the scale — some researchers say, the more your body struggles to return to it. That might help to explain why none of the women in Jakicic’s study managed to lose much more than 10% of their body weight. After two years on a calorie-restricted diet, keeping up more than an hour of physical activity five days a week on average, most were still clinically overweight (though much less so than before). But what Jakicic and other obesity researchers stress is that a 10% reduction in body weight represents a tremendous boon for overall well-being, lowering blood pressure, improving heart health and reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. For the obese, the end goal should not be thinness, but health and self-acceptance, which are more realistic and beneficial objectives. “The women’s health was absolutely improved,” Jakicic says.

Jakicic, in fact, seems heartened by his findings. “I think the beauty of this study is that we now have a target” — a better idea of how much exercise is needed for weight maintenance. There is, of course, some variation in how people respond. Some of the study participants fared well with less exercise than the additional 275 minutes per week (about 55 minutes per day, five days a week) that the study’s author now recommends for weight maintenance. Others needed more. But the keys to success, according to Jakicic, were embracing the weight-loss program fully, and finding a way around the daily obstacles to exercising — that’s something he says many of his participants were able to achieve, regardless of their socioeconomic group. So, if you’re aiming to lose weight and keep it off, his message is clear: don’t slack off.

* Find this article at:
* http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1827342,00.html

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  1. Jacque Kizer

    November 17, 2014 at 7:46 am

    too much!

  2. Linda Thompson

    November 17, 2014 at 6:24 am

    For women, I believe it’s strength training and then cardio. Cardio that raises your heart rate. And of course healthy eating etc.

  3. Marianne Hagadorn

    November 16, 2014 at 11:38 pm

    I will say an hour a day isn’t always possible for everyone. I have two 5 year olds and two 3 year olds and work 50 hours a week. I do what I can when I can. No exercise is pointless. I know people who have lost weight with minimal exercise because of physical restrictions but were super strict on nutrition. For me, the key is just getting movement in, regardless of how long I could go. We all don’t have ideal situations unfortunately.

  4. Marie Scott

    November 16, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    The reality of the situation is that many people are overworked. Many of us work 50 hrs a week, with long commutes, we have no time to exercise, make our own food or anything else. I’ve went for months living off fast food, not becuase I like fast food (it sucks), but because if I didn’t use a drive through I would starve to death.
    I really wish I had an extra hour a day, not to exercise with though, just to sleep.

  5. Kammy Billeisen Chambers

    November 16, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I seriously laughed so damn hard when I read the part where the women refused to stick to their assigned exercise levels and it messed up their data!!

  6. Rebekah Hedman

    November 16, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    I have lost 103# since April, exercise has been a HUGE part of it, it HAS to be a lifestyle change or it WILL NOT work and stay off. Also important is giving yourself a freebie day, just not going overboard.

  7. Amy Gleason Mytnik

    November 16, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    I just took a bodygem test at my Y on Friday. I know what my resting metabolic rate is, exactly how many calories I need to lose 1lb a week and how many calories I need on my workout days. It really helped put things in perspective

  8. Sheila Iddings

    November 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    I have been counting calories and only lost 5# and can’t seem to loose any more. I do exercise four days a week

  9. Misti Hartzell Jones

    November 16, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    I joined the YMCA and do deep water aerobics for 50 minutes per day five days per week and I walk a lot too… I absolutely believe the exercise when coupled with the calorie counting of myfitnesspal is what helped me lose so much so fast. I’m down 110lbs in 10 months without surgery!

  10. Marni L. Gable

    November 16, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    For me is definitely more important what I’m eating. When it takes me an hour to burn 500 calories and 5 minutes to eat that many, it puts it in perspective.

  11. Angelia Castro

    November 16, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I just had back surgery and can’t do anything except walk for 15 minutes a day. Is it possible to lose with calorie counting alone?

  12. Diana Gilbreath

    November 16, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I’m 46 I had to work hard to get it off and I work hard to keep it off… Workouts that burn about 500 calories plus I’m in nursing and walk about 6 miles a night 5 days a week. I think it depends on your metabolism… Mine sucks 😉

  13. Jackie Martin

    November 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    I have burnout. Trying to get back to high intensity workouts sigh.
    All I do is walk my dog these days

  14. Judy Johnson

    November 16, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Barbara Stephan Bradish, would you mind sharing your weekly menus? My issue is not with exercise, its what I eat & when. Thanks!

  15. Barbara Stephan Bradish

    November 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    so true! I do at least an hour of cardio 6-7 days per week (not including weight training), healthy eating & I’m down 60# in 4.5 months 🙂 I’m not on a diet, I’m changing my life!

  16. Jarrod Fry

    November 16, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    All of it.

  17. Darlene Payne

    November 16, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    I don’t agree. I’ve lost weight many times exercising for 30 minutes at a time, at least 5 days a week. The weight loss stopped when the exercise and healthy eating stopped. I think we need to stop paying so much attention to surveys that are contradicted as soon as the next one comes out. The so called experts constantly changing their minds makes overweight people feel hopeless. A lot of overweight people have jobs, children, meals to cook, chores to do, homework to help with, second jobs to go to, meetings to attend, their children’s games to go to. Not everyone HAS an hour a day to devote to exercise.

    Sorry, this is a sore subject for me. :/

    • Leslie

      November 16, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      I totally agree! Im lucky to even GET 30 minutes a day in, and when I do, something else isn’t getting done, or im dog tired while doing it.

  18. Phyllis Casiano

    November 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Good info

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