The role of exercise in maintaining health

Regular physical activity and exercise provide both immediate and long-term benefits, especially as we age. Exercise improves muscle strength, heart health, bone strength, and brain function. It reduces blood pressure and enhances sleep quality, improves balance, helps reduce falls and improves or maintains cognitive abilities. Importantly, regular physical activity protects against diseases including prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, forms of cancer and osteoporosis. Exercise also reduces the risk of medical emergencies related to vascular disease, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Consequently, regular exercise helps you maintain better physical health, allowing you to perform everyday activities more easily. And based on mountains of scientific evidence, the benefits of exercise are vast.

But what about exercise for weight loss?

How does exercise help manage your weight?

Regular exercise is important if you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Here are two key points about exercise for weight loss:

  • Increasing your physical activity will increase the number of calories your body uses for energy. Combined with reducing the calories you eat; exercise can help create a deficit in calories each day that results in weight loss. It also increases your metabolism, allowing for more efficient ‘calorie burning,’ even during periods of rest.
  • It is important to understand that a lot — if not most — weight loss occurs from decreasing caloric intake. Regular physical activity, however, will help promote  weight loss, and increase your health at the same time. In reducing calories however, research shows you must be careful to maintain enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals, when attempting to lose weight (fat) and increase muscle mass and strength.

How much exercise for weight loss is required?

Increasing your activity to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week with several strength sessions or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week will help maintain your weight. Our new app at SimpliMove.health (see “GET STARTED FOR FREE” in the upper menu) will help you maintain a regular habit of exercise and keep you strong.

Of course, the exact amount of physical activity and exercise for weight loss that you need to sustain a healthy weight varies between people. In fact, your genetic encoding  contributes greatly to this equation. Thus, to maintain your weight, you may need more than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of intense activity a week.

The exercise-diet combination

To lose weight (and keep it off without changing what you eat), you will need to engage in a high amount of physical activity. The most efficient way to lose weight is to adopt a healthy diet and reduce the number of calories you consume, plus engage in regular exercise. And when you adopt healthier eating habits, it often inspires better exercise habits.  One study showed that after a 12-month intervention in ~58-year-old overweight women, the combination of exercise and healthy diet was the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. Conversely, individuals who participated in a singular regimen (diet-only or exercise-only) experienced results that were less remarkable.

So, the bottom line is that exercise for weight loss is possible but varies between people and is most effective when coupled with a change of diet.

References

Center for Disease Control and Prevention website: CDC.gov

Foster-Schubert, K. E., Alfano, C. M., Duggan, C. R., Xiao, L., Campbell, K. L., Kong, A., Bain, C. E., Wang, C. Y., Blackburn, G. L., & McTiernan, A. (2012). Effect of diet and exercise, alone or combined, on weight and body composition in overweight-to-obese postmenopausal women. Obesity (Silver Spring), 20(8), 1628-1638. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2011.76

Roth, A., Sattelmayer, M., Schorderet, C., Gafner, S., & Allet, L. (2022). Effects of exercise training and dietary supplement on fat free mass and bone mass density during weight loss – a systematic review and meta-analysis. F1000Res, 11, 8. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.75539.3

Verreijen, A. M., Engberink, M. F., Memelink, R. G., van der Plas, S. E., Visser, M., & Weijs, P. J. (2017). Effect of a high protein diet and/or resistance exercise on the preservation of fat free mass during weight loss in overweight and obese older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr J, 16(1), 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-017-0229-6