For long-term weight control, physical activity may be even more important than diet. Here's why.
by Susan Moores, M.S., R.D
Why is exercise so important in a weight loss program? Here are 5 good reasons.
- Exercise burns calories. Weight loss comes down to a very simple equation: Burn more calories than you take in. Every time you move, you help tip the scale in your favor.
- Exercise preserves and builds muscle. Muscle burns calories. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day long – even at rest. The right exercises help you maintain the muscle you have, and build even more.
- Exercise can change your shape. Women (particularly as they approach menopause) and men alike often find that excess fat tends to settle or accumulate in the midsection – where it poses a greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes than fat on the hips and thighs. The good news: Research suggests that abdominal fat may be more responsive to hormones released during exercise that cause fat to break down.
- Exercise supports long-term success. Dieting can help you lose weight, but exercise strongly influences whether or not it stays off. Studies show that dieting plus physical activity is the most effective recipe for losing weight, but for keeping it off, physical activity matters most.
- Testimonials count. The National Weight Control Registry tracks thousands of dieters who have lost, on average, 60 pounds and kept it off for five years. More than 80% of registry members say exercise was and is integral to maintaining their healthy weight. Other studies agree that regular exercise is a good predictor of long-term weight loss success.
Beyond Weight LossApart from its role in weight loss, there's more good news about exercise and its role in maintaining health.
- Exercise keeps you physically sharp. Physical activity bolsters your endurance and energy levels, and helps improve flexibility. At any age, exercise can rebuild lost muscle, and improve strength and stamina.
- Exercise boosts attitude. Studies show physical activity improves self-esteem, offers a mental lift, reduces depression and eases anxiety.
- It's integral to good health. Even without weight loss, exercise can:
- Cut the risk for heart disease by improving cholesterol levels.
- Protect against diabetes by increasing the body's sensitivity to insulin.
- Improve sleep.
- Possibly lower the risk of some cancers, including those of the breast and colon.