Activity not Exercise: A Principle for Weight Loss and Better Health

Australians have long been encouraged to engage in 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. This we studiously ignore: 35% of us are completely sedentary; 36% have only a low level of exercise; leaving just 28% that meet the required amount. These figures are based on asking people what they had done in the previous two weeks and given that it’s human nature to overestimate how active we actually are, they are likely to be even lower.

The National Health and Medical Research Council have now suggested that the recommendation be increased – by 100% – to at least one hour of activity a day.

This might be sound advice from a scientific point of view, but we humans are governed by more than science and moving the goal posts to an even less achievable level could act as a deterrent for those of us that are in the sedentary to low bracket. Even those who already manage to incorporate regular activity into their day would have to eke out another 30 minutes in their day.

Having unrealistic goals is one of the main reasons that people fail to lose weight or make lasting changes to their lifestyles. Most of us will have experienced deciding to do more exercise and starting off well, but then gradually fading back to our original level after a few weeks. If you’re serious about making the changes needed to lose weight then, changing your views on exercise is critical.

Reasons NOT to exercise:

  1. Unrealistic goals lead to failure

    Repeatedly failing to achieve your goals is a sure fire way to destroy your motivation. Deciding that you are going to go to the gym every day, or start training for a marathon are fantastic goals to have but for most of us they are unrealistic and are quickly forgotten about. It is far better to have a small, achievable goal which becomes a habit than enormous goals which remain a dream.

  2. Exercise doesn’t make you lose weight

    In fact, for many people (particularly women) exercise can make you gain weight! Vigorous exercise increases cortisol, one of our main stress hormones, and the very one which is linked with abdominal weight gain. If you live a stress free life and/or are under 25, then this probably won’t have any negative effect. However if you are at all stressed or older, then this increase in cortisol can have a rebound effect on other hormones that leads to weight gain.

  3. Exercise makes you hungry

    Our body keeps a very close eye on the comings and goings of calories. If you exert yourself and burn more calories than normal, you are likely to end up compensating for those lost calories by overeating at your next meal. People also often find that they “reward” themselves for exercising by eating unhelpful foods

  4. Exercise can slow down your metabolism

    One of the big benefits of exercise is that continues to increase your metabolic rate and the amount of calories you burn for several hours after finishing. That is, unless you’re overweight. Then exercise has the opposite effect and your metabolism slows down after exercise! If you have a vigorous exercise session and eat a meal afterwards – particularly if you’re eating carbohydrates – you are very unlikely to lose weight, and in fact, you might well gain it.

So you can see that if you are lean, relaxed and free of wrinkles, exercise is a great thing to do plenty of, which is why most of the people doing lots of vigorous exercise are young and lean! So what should you do if you are older, overweight and currently one of the 75% of Australians who don’t exercise?

You need to increase your activity

It’s that simple.

Don’t:

  • Join a gym
  • Get a personal trainer
  • Sign up for boot camps

(unless you’re already young, lean or very active)

You need to be active before you exercise!

You can increase your activity by:

  • Walking – walk around the block when you get home, before you go to work, at lunch time, to and from the train or bus stop.
  • Park further away – from home, the shops, work
  • Standing as often as you can – on public transport, while you’re on the phone, while you’re reading the paper or checking email
  • Bend, stretch, squat or just jump around – as often as you can

This makes sense when you stop looking at exercise as a way to burn calories. It isn’t. Your body will compensate for any calories you burn by making you hungry, slowing down your metabolism or reducing your activity during the day.

Still not sure? This research discovered that when young men exercised for either one hour or 30 minutes a day, those who exercised less lost MORE weight.

Activity drives hormonal changes that lead to weight loss, better mood and increased energy. For most of us, exercise has the opposite effect.

Weight Loss Principle: Activity not exercise

Lucifer Morningstar