I’ll Just Walk it Off

And now a note on exercise.

Sorrento

Hiking on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

There are two important things to keep in mind about exercise.

  1. It’s really, really good for us in terms of increasing energy, helping out our bodies, suppressing appetite, and improving mood (unless you’ve just spent an hour hiking through spider webs every three steps, which is why I’ve hung up my hiking boots until autumn begins).boots
  2. Relying exclusively on exercise as the way to lose weight will not work. More than once in my life I really ramped up the exercise. I lost some weight, was more toned, and felt better, but I didn’t stick with it because I got discouraged when I didn’t lose much weight. The problem was that I didn’t change my eating habits. I thought I could burn what I needed to with extra exercise, cut back a bit, and it’d all fall into place. Wrong.

We tend to put a lot of stock in exercise as a way to lose weight. There’s no question that moving around will burn calories. The problem with relying on exercise to lose weight or compensate for a binge session is that you have to exercise A LOT to burn a significant number of calories.

As I discussed in How Many Calories are You Eating?, people’s bodies burn calories differently. No doubt you’ve come across the charts or calculators that estimate how many calories you’ll burn from a certain activity. I pulled up the top four results from a Google search, calculated how many calories I would have burned from 30 minutes of walking at 2.5 miles per hour (about what I was doing once I implemented exercise into my lifestyle change), and got very different results ranging from 235 to 393 calories.

Even if I use the most generous one, that’s not very many calories. If I’m trying to lose weight promising myself I’ll walk an extra 30 minutes to counter the Butterfingers Blizzard I splurged on that day, it’ll help, but it won’t entirely cancel it out. At most, I’d only burn 393 of the 520 calories in the Blizzard. But if I’m already walking 30 minutes a day, am I really committed to walking an hour?

Relying on exercise is not a sustainable solution. It’s good to know that if you really feel the need to indulge and eat a Blizzard, you can try and make up for it with some extra exercise. (This is why when people weigh themselves after a vacation, even though they usually eat more than usual, they’ve actually lose a few pounds because they were also much more active than they ordinarily would be.) But the point of a lifestyle change is to figure out how to have a better relationship with food so you can have your cake and eat it, too, but without the trade-off of extra exercise.

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