Clarifying the Role of Physical Activity on Weight Loss
Although physical activity may be look for everyone, it has the same benefits across all abilities. Physical activity is as simple as moving the body and burning calories. There is a surplus of evidence to support the numerous health benefits of physical activity. Regular physical activity has been linked to decreased risk of premature mortality. It also decreases the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer such as colon and breast. Physical activity improves psychological function and lowers depression and anxiety symptoms. In addition, there is evidence that physical activity positively influences brain function and improves cognition, learning, and memory. Furthermore, physical activity has been shown to play an important role in improving long-term weight maintenance and lowering weight regain, but what exactly is the role of physical activity in weight loss?
Research literature shows that calorie restriction alone can produce significant weight loss but not aerobic exercise alone. This is partly due to the fact that moderate physical activity doesn’t use up that many calories. For instance, dancing for an hour only burns around 330 calories. That’s not enough when you are trying to reach a 500 calorie deficit needed to lose weight. When combining caloric restriction with burning calories through exercise, a greater calorie deficit is created resulting in weight loss. However, you may notice that both diet and exercise are included in organizational health recommendations. Along with the benefits listed at the beginning of this article, physical activity significantly improves cardiorespiratory fitness and physical activity level which are independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. The restriction of calories without exercise will not improve cardiorespiratory fitness. So the take-away message is that when trying to lose weight or even maintain your weight, adopt a program that emphasizes both nutrition and exercise.
Swift D, Johannsen N, Lavie C, Earnest C, Church T. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases. 2014;56:441-447.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/index.html. Updated September 13, 2011. Accessed May 20, 2015.