Contrary to popular belief, exercise does not help with weight loss. While physical fitness regimes have several benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, cancer and even improving mental health. Public Health Scientists Richard S. Cooper, MD and Amy Luke, PhD of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine claim that using exercising with the aim of losing weight is not of much value.

The Researchers Claim: Physical Activity Does Not Help Lose Weight

The food and beverage industry has, in an effort to divert consumer attention from calorie consumption, promoted the idea that lack of physical exercise is what has led to the epidemic of obesity. Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, recently reported of supporting a new ‘science-based’ solution for the crisis of obesity – for maintaining a healthy weight; focus on getting more exercise instead of cutting back on calories.

Drs. Cooper and Luke have been investigating the association between obesity and physical activity for many years. At the start of their research, they assumed that physical exercise would be the most important aspect for losing weight. However, the predominance of evidence has revealed their assumption to be wrong.

Increasing physical activity leads to an increase in appetite, which is sustained by consuming more food, unless a conscious effort is made to avoid this. Hence, with or without exercise, calorie control is the key variable essential for maintaining or losing weight. Drs. Cooper and Luke explained that this essential message is generally not included in public health recommendations. The latter suggests increasing physical activity and eating more fruits and vegetables. “The prescription needs to be precise: the one and only effective way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories”.

Evidence Supporting The Idea: Physical Activity Does Not Help Lose Weight

In their published study, the researchers provided detailed evidence that physical activity is not imperative for losing weight. A few examples are given below:

  • It is generally stated that Africa, India and China have low rates of obesity partially because of their strenuous work routines. However, the evidence collected by Drs. Cooper and Luke negates this notion. African Americans weigh more than Nigerians; however, after correction for body size, Nigerians do not burn more calories than African Americans via physical activity.
  • Various clinical trials have demonstrated that exercise along with reduced calorie intake achieves more or less the same results as with calorie control alone.
  • Observational studies provide evidence that energy expenditure and consequent weight loss/change are not associated.
  • An extremely small proportion of the US population indulges in levels of energy expenditure high enough to influence long-term energy balance.

“Physical activity is extremely important for improving overall health and fitness levels, but there is limited evidence to suggest that it can blunt the surge in obesity”, state Drs. Luke and Cooper in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Since the publication of their study, evidence supporting their claims has substantially increased.