Exercising for weight loss. Everything you need to know.

exercising for weight loss

First a story about me

Over 20 years ago, I applied for a job at receptionist at my local gym. I was a young 20 something, ready for a career change. I was about 10kgs over weight at the time. That 10kg weight gain crept up on me in a way that I hardly noticed, until I couldn’t do up my 90’s red low-rise jeans anymore (who remembers those?)

Not to worry I thought. I work in a gym now. I will simply ask one of the (cute) gym instructors to write me the perfect weight loss exercise plan that will transform me into some sort of super model. That is honestly what I thought at the time. So funny to remember it now.

Trainer Dave obliged and wrote me a fantastic exercise program that I did most days of the week. Weights one day, HIIT cardio the next, repeat. I was so excited about my upcoming transformation.

However after I had put in 10 weeks of hard, effective exercise most days of the week I did not see much of a change in the way I looked. My jeans still didn’t do up!  Sure I felt fitter and stronger, but the 25yr old me didn’t give a crap about that. I wanted to look HOT.

**I hadn’t even thought about changing my eating plan. I didn’t eat that bad after all. (Or so I thought at 25)

10 weeks of exercising most days of the week = No weight loss for me = NOT happy.

**Full story about what happened next (including pictures) can be found HERE

A few facts about exercising for weight loss…

  • There are many, many reasons to exercise that have nothing to do with weight loss. But since the topic of weight loss is my passion and area of expertise, that’s what I have decided to focus on for this article.
  • Weight loss is primarily about creating a calorie deficit. Burn more calories than you consume and weight loss happens. **BTW – This is true no matter what diet or method you choose to use to achieve your weight loss goal.
  • It takes way more time and effort to burn off 500 extra calories (1 hour of hard exercise for a small – medium female), compared to the time it takes to consume 500 extra calories (2 minutes flat in some cases). For this reason.. MOST of your results will come from your eating plan, not from your exercise and movement plan
  • A small – medium female would need to add 14 hours of exercise in order to burn off 1 measly kilo. (7000 calorie deficit).
  • **and that is assuming she doesn’t eat or rest any more than she normally would in order to compensate for her exercise session (which the 25yr old me was doing)

No wonder I didn’t lose any weight from my exercise sessions.

I knew nothing about creating a calorie deficit, I knew nothing about eating for fat loss (where most of your weight loss results will come from). I simply thought exercise was the be all and end all.

I have written and spoken about how much exercise you need for weight loss HERE and HERE (and possibly a million other places and times)

Quick summary so far

  • Calories IN vs Calories OUT and creating a calorie deficit is how weight loss works (7000 calories = 1kg approx.)
  • It takes a LOT of time exercising to burn up extra calories
  • It takes very LITTLE time to consume extra calories
  • Exercising is such a small way that we burn calories over our 168 hour week
  • Most of your weight loss results will come from your nutritional plan

Side note from Chriss –

Exercise is such a small part of how we burn calories over our 168 hour week.

Most of the calories we burn come from simply being alive. If we were hooked up to a hospital bed not moving a muscle, we would still burn approx. 1000 calories per day (medium female) just to stay alive. 

More calories are burnt simply moving about during our day. More time moving = more calories burnt (and vice versa). I advise my clients to maximise their moving time per week before they even look at adding exercise.

1) Exercise helps us to reduce and manage stress.

Less stress = more energy = improved hormones = better and easier weight management.

Less stress often = less emotional eating = less calorie intake = greater chance at weight loss.

2) Exercise helps us sleep better.

Better sleep  = more energy = improved hormones =  better and easier weight management.

3) Exercise makes our cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin

Becoming more insulin sensitive hence less insulin sensitive can make such a big difference to our health and how easy or hard we find it to lose weight.

I honestly believe this is a HUGE factor in weight gain or loss. Becoming more insulin sensitive (hence less insulin resistant) is often thought of as the secret sauce to easier, faster and longer lasting fat loss.

4) Exercise can build lean muscle

** Assuming you have chosen an exercise session that uses and overloads your muscle groups.

Increasing the amount of lean muscle mass we have on our body has a few benefits…

  • a) More muscle = Higher resting metabolic rate  = Easier weight management
  • b) Helps us to become more insulin sensitive (see reason 3)
  • c) It gives us a nice firm shape. You cannot get Cameron Diaz arms or J-Lo abs by diet alone
  • d) It gives us much more chance that the lost weight (as measured on the scales) will come from excess body fat and not lean muscle

**Full article on muscles and weight loss HERE

You don’t get Cameron Diaz arms from diet alone.

5) Exercise makes you feel like a confident, unstoppable badass.

(My personal favourite reason)

This confidence (can) spill over into making better choices in all areas of your life, including your nutrition choices.
** Assuming you are exercising in a way that makes you feel good. 

***Spoiler alert – If you are exercising in a way that does NOT  makes you feel good, you should seriously consider looking for another option.

6) Exercise increases the production of Human Growth Hormone

I could get all sciency here, but let me just say this…  Increased natural Human Growth Hormone HGH is a good thing, some say a great thing.

Note from Chriss

Just as we know that 200 calories of chicken and broccoli affects us differently than 200 calories of potato chips (my personal weakness)

We also know that 200 calories burnt by taking a slow comfortable walk or jog, will affect us differently than 200 calories burnt by doing a 20 minute intense body weight circuit that uses and overloads all of our muscle groups.

I believe that the calorie burning effects of exercise may be one of the least important factors in moving your body.

Take home message

  • Whilst exercise alone can technically achieve weight loss, it is highly unlikely for most people. It takes a LOT of time, effort and patience. Months in some cases to see any results at all. (Unrealistic for most busy people)
  • Nutrition will always be your number one priority for weight loss. I liken it to building a solid foundation first.
  • Diet alone (creating a calorie deficit) will achieve weight loss without exercise, but wont give you some of the shape, health, hormonal and metabolism boosting results you might desire.
  • Diet PLUS Exercise gives us the best health, weight loss and shape results. For so many more reasons other than  the added calorie burn.
  • Think of Diet + Exercise as  1 + 1 = 3
  • The extra hormonal, metabolic and muscle building benefits of exercise wont happen instantly. They take time and consistency to take full effect.  Like a snowball down a hill, gathering momentum over time. Be patient. There will come a time when things start flowing with more ease.

** Note – When I use the term “diet”, I simply mean the foods and drinks we habitually consume.

What are you waiting for ??

Get out there and do some exercise !!