Exercise, Physical Activity, Training, Working Out, Getting Your Fitness On….or whatever you like to call it is great for you. Here is what makes it so great:
Major benefits of exercise in general:
- Improved heart/blood health
- Improved mood
- Improved coordination
- Improved blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol
Direct major benefits of pure cardio exercise:
- Improved cardiovascular endurance
- Improved resting heart rate
- Improved performance in cardiovascular events/activities
Direct major benefits of strength training:
- Improved muscle mass/”tone”
- Improved strength
- Improved bone mineral density
- Improved insulin sensitivity
Notice none of those said “weight or fat loss”?
Relying solely on exercise to lose weight is a terrible idea. Is it part of the equation? Yes, but a much more minor part than most think.
If you constantly think you need more and more exercise, and to do this class, or go on this run, or up your miles, or start 2 a days you are setting yourself up for a major bummer.
If you feel the need to dreadfully add more and more exercise, then let me stop you. It is not going to get you anywhere besides spinning your wheels on the never-ending hamster wheel of mediocrity and semi-decent results – BUT you will miss out on your true potential. “Why?” You might ask…
From a physiological and thermodynamics level:
Heres some numbers to cheer you up:
- A 185 pound person will burn about 266-378 calories per hour in a strength training class (a lighter person will burn less)
- Most people will burn, on average, 100 calories per 1 mile traveled on foot. So if you run 5 miles, that’s about 500 calories.
- Various numbers can be given for different exercises, and modalities – so the results can be very variable and unpredictable.
- Calorie burn calculations from wearable tech can be off by up to 45% – thus making it nearly pointless to care about how many calories you burned at your latest 1000 burpee challenge Bootcamp.
How easy is it to eat 266 calories? That’s about a handful of mixed nuts, a bite of your kids’ mac n cheese, and a girl scout cookie after dinner. Pretty damn easy to “cancel” out that calorie burn from that workout – I guess it was pointless…
This is the problem with thinking of exercise purely as a calorie burn. Look back to the list at the top of all the benefits of exercise, cardio, and strength training. Those are some pretty awesome benefits. But when you only think of exercises as “how many calories can I burn”, you end up wrecking your relationship with it, and sometimes wrecking your body.
If you are always chasing the calorie burn from exercise, you start to sacrifice form for speed, you lift lighter than you should, you turn a boot camp into a marathon day of working out, you start to do stupid things in your workout just because they “burn more calories” or get your heart rate up (Burpee challenges are the worst thing I have ever heard of BTW).
From a hormonal level:
Exercise stresses your body.
Dieting stresses your body.
Life stresses your body.
Your body only recognizes this all as stress is stress is stress.
Exercising more and more, and eating less and less will work – for the short term.
Eventually somethings gotta give, and that something is usually your progress – and this leads to semi-satisfactory results. These are usually the folks who have that last 5-10 pounds of stubborn fat that they REALLY want to lose.
When we workout out over and over again with a goal to lose weight, we are constantly living in a stressed state, Couple that with most people not eating nearly enough, not eating consistently, not sleeping enough or getting enough nourishment to fuel this many workouts, and you are looking to stall out or even start falling backward.
Stress in all forms induces cortisol. Constantly elevated levels of cortisol can and will eventually slow your bodies metabolic furnace down, because we’ve got more important things to worry about than trying to burn fat. This will also greatly affect the production of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen are natural fat burning hormones), slow down thyroid function and imbalanced blood sugar levels. Lastly, it makes it hard for your body to create those ‘feel good’ hormones like serotonin.
And here is the WORST thing you can do when your body is under tons of stress from life, training, and dieting….eat low carb. (and what is the one diet most people gravitate towards these days?)
When your cortisol is already through the roof, your energy levels are zapped, yet you try and force yourself through more and more workouts – well, your body is just starving for carbs, but most people will deprive themselves of them – only putting your body into a crazier hormonal spiral.
Eating carbs increases your insulin response. Insulin works opposite of cortisol – sort of like a cortisol shut off valve. So when you eat carbs post workout, it’s not so much about the shuttling of nutrients to the muscles faster like old school bodybuilders used to think – but more so about spiking your insulin, shutting off your cortisol and letting your body get into recovery mode.
So if we should stop exercising to lose weight, what should we do?
Stop exercising with the mindset of having to earn your food, or burn your meal…exercise for the benefits listed at the start of this post.
You may have been able to ignore your diet at the start, but its time to get real and be honest with yourself. Nutrition is the key component for fat loss – but it also doesn’t have to be dreaded or miserable.
Instead of thinking you need more high-intensity training – see how many steps you get in a day. See how active you are OUTSIDE of working out. Think of the construction workers you see pounding 64 oz. sodas, burgers, fries, pizza, and yet they are still thin. It’s much more about your daily overall activity than your workouts…
Lastly, work to reduce your stress. Take a step back from crazy workouts, work on some breathing exercises, swap out a bootcamp for some yoga, and focus on improving your sleep and nutrition.
Exercise is great, but it should not be done out of guilt, or with a goal of just needing to burn more calories.
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Stay healthy my friends,