How Does Exercise Aid in Weight Loss?

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It is a fact universally acknowledged: You HAVE to exercise to lose weight. You must have heard this from countless doctors, health experts and fitness gurus, the more you workout, the better your weight loss results will be. But is more always better? Is exercise the only thing you need to lose weight? Can you indulge in all of your favourite foods if you put in enough hours at the gym? Read on to understand how exactly exercise aids in weight loss.


How Effective is Exercise in Weight Management?

The basic principle of weight loss is to burn more calories or energy than you consume. This is called a caloric deficit. You consume calories or energy every time you ingest food, and you need to expend more energy than you consume every day in order to enter a caloric deficit and lose weight.

Your body burns some amount of energy to perform basic functions like breathing, circulation, cell production, etc. This is known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). This amount, however, is not sufficient to trigger a caloric deficit. In order to do that, you need to expend energy by exercising or being physically active.

When you exercise, your body uses the energy that is stored in your cells and muscles (in the form of glycogen and fat) to fuel your activity. Exercise also helps boost your metabolism and build muscle, which helps raise your BMR and resting energy expenditure. Thus exercise contributes to weight loss by helping your body burn more calories.

However, it is important to note that caloric deficit cannot be achieved with exercise alone. In order to lose a considerable amount of weight, you need to support exercise with a reduction in your calorie intake and dietary changes.

Some experts have claimed that exercise only contributes to about 20 to 25% of caloric deficit, and the rest 75 to 80% is accomplished through dietary changes and reducing calorie intake. So exercise may not be as effective for weight loss if it is not combined with a change in your diet

However, exercise is essential for maintaining weight loss and preventing weight gain, as dietary modifications alone are not adequate for managing weight. Therefore, experts suggest exercising to improve your overall health and fitness, with weight loss to be considered as a consequence of exercise, instead of it being the primary goal.

What Types of Exercise are Helpful in Weight Management?

All types of physical activity can help you burn calories, but the extent to which they contribute to fat and weight loss differs based on the type of exercise performed.

Exercise can be differentiated into two major types – aerobic and anaerobic – based on the amount of oxygen demanded by and supplied to your muscles.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity, also known as cardio-respiratory exercise or “cardio”, is defined as exercise “with oxygen”. When performing aerobic activities, your muscles receive the oxygen required to burn stored glycogen and fat to produce energy. Thus, oxygen is able to fuel your workout and you are able to keep exercising for an extended period of time.

Examples of aerobic activities that can contribute to weight loss include walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming, rowing, dancing, etc. Experts recommend at least 30 to 45 min of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every day, five days a week for weight loss.

Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and respiratory rate in order to supply your muscles with enough oxygen and blood. It also helps build your stamina and endurance levels, which can help you be more active in your daily life.

Regular aerobic activity has other health benefits, like:

  • Improving your heart health and lowering your risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Controlling your blood sugar levels
  • Promoting better sleep
  • Boosting your mood

Anaerobic Exercise

Anaerobic activities, or exercise “without oxygen”, are high-intensity activities that are performed for a shorter duration. Examples of anaerobic exercise include weight lifting, resistance training, sprinting, skipping or jumping rope, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), pilates, callisthenics, and other forms of strength training.

Anaerobic activities are generally performed in short bursts of intense activity followed by periods of rest. As the activity is high-intensity, your muscles are unable to receive sufficient oxygen, which results in the production of lactic acid and the tiring of your muscles. 

In the absence of oxygen, your body breaks down the stored glycogen and fat as the sole source of energy. This results in a bigger boost to your metabolism and BMR as regular anaerobic activity helps you build lean muscle mass.

Anaerobic activity is thought to be more effective than aerobic exercise in fat loss as it helps you burn more calories both during the workout and while resting. Try to include about 15 to 30 min sessions of anaerobic exercise in your workout routine, twice a week. Other benefits of anaerobic exercise include:

  • Strengthening of joints and bones
  • Improvement and maintenance of muscle mass
  • Improvement of mood
  • Enhancement of strength and endurance

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • The primary rule of weight loss is to achieve a caloric deficit by burning more calories than you consume.
  • You can induce caloric deficit by reducing the number of calories you consume and by burning more calories by increasing your physical activity.
  • When you exercise, your body utilises the energy stored in your muscles and tissues in the form of glycogen and fat to fuel your workout.
  • Physical activity can be broadly classified into aerobic and anaerobic exercises based on the amount of oxygen utilised by your muscles during the workout.
  • If your muscles receive enough oxygen and can use it along with glucose to generate energy, then the activity is classified as aerobic. Examples include walking, jogging, running, swimming, dancing etc.
  • If your muscles do not receive sufficient oxygen during a workout, they use glycogen and fat as the sole source of energy. This occurs during short-interval, high-intensity activities like sprinting, weight training, HIIT exercise, etc. These are called anaerobic exercises.
  • Aerobic exercise helps improve resting heart rate and endurance, whereas anaerobic exercise promotes greater fat loss and boosts metabolism. Both can aid in weight loss.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading nutritionists and dieticians to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Check out our store to order healthy treats, weighing scales, fitness bands, and more! We also have a Weight Management Program which provides 360º care. Start your weight management journey with Phable.

Friendly Asked Questions

Can you lose weight just by exercising?

No, exercise is just one component of weight loss and management, the other important components being dietary changes and lifestyle modifications. All these components go hand-in-hand with each other, and will not be effective without the others. For the best results, exercise should be combined with diet and lifestyle changes.

How much does exercise contribute to weight loss?

Experts claim that exercise only contributes to about 20 to 25% of weight loss; the rest 75 to 80% happens through diet. Though dietary changes are the major contributor to weight loss, exercise and physical activity are necessary to maintain the weight loss and prevent any fluctuations in weight.

Which exercise is best for losing weight?

Any exercise that helps you burn more calories and boost your metabolism is ideal for weight loss. Including cardio exercises, strength training, as well as flexibility exercises in your workout can help you lose weight and also improve your physical fitness.

Do I need to exercise 7 days a week for weight loss?

Not necessarily. Most doctors recommend exercising for about 150 to 300 min a week, based on the intensity of the activity performed. This is generally spread over five days of a week, with two days of rest in between.

What happens if you exercise regularly?

The following are the benefits of regular exercise:
-Improved muscle strength
-Reduction in body fat percentage
-Lowered blood pressure
-Improved blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity
-Better cardiovascular and respiratory health
-Improved circulation
-Enhanced metabolism
-Improved mood
-Prevents lifestyle conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc.

How fast can you see results after exercising?

In terms of weight loss, you can start to see some results after about 2 to 3 weeks of consistent exercise. Improved endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and muscle strength and tone take about 8 to 12 weeks of regular exercise to show results.

Can I eat whatever I like if I exercise regularly?

No. Exercise is an essential part of a good weight management plan, but dietary changes are the key. It is important to lower your calorie intake and make conscious food choices as the progress you make through exercise can easily be negated through your food choices.