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Obesity Fact #4: Exercise Aids In Weight Maintenance

Following yesterday’s Obesity Fact #3 (exercise is good for you even if it doesn’t help you lose weight), Obesity Fact #4 from the New England Journal of Medicine paper, states that,

“Physical activity or exercise in a sufficient dose aids in long-term weight maintenance.”

This is a pretty well-established fact, however, the authors hasten to point out that the key term in this “Fact” is the term “sufficient dose”.

Thus, the authors note that,

“Physical-activity programs are important, especially for children, but for physical activity to affect weight, there must be a substantial quantity of movement, not mere participation.”

Indeed, recent studies have questioned whether in fact, the amount of physical activity that is achievable in school phys-ed programs (for example) would provide a sufficient dose to prevent weight gain (let alone maintenance of weight loss).

Thus, this “Fact” reflects the consistent body of knowledge that exercise as a way to control your weight, be it to prevent weight gain, lose weight, or prevent weight regain, requires a substantial dose of activity – more than is perhaps necessary to simply maintain good health (see Obesity Fact #3).

As I have said before, exercise is perhaps best seen as part of energy-in rather than energy-out and the right dose of exercise to help you control your weight is just the amount that it takes to RUIN your appetite. For some people that may well be the benefit you get from walking your dog.

Edmonton, AB


  1. While exercise may not necessarily change the numbers on the scale, in “sufficient dose” it does change the composition of the body and there is some evidence that having more muscle and less fat is healthier. A higher muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate. You can have two people who have exactly the same weight at a given height but have significantly different body composition so I wonder why we keep talking about weight. It is perhaps time to be less sloppy with our language and actually talked about folks who are deconditioned or fit and work to change our society to allow us all to partake in fun, enjoyable activity that doesn’t require boatloads of motivation to start or continue. When I hear of folks bemoaning their lack of motivation I keep thinking it is because they have chosen activities that are too boring so why would they want to continue.

    I have been fit all my life. Not because I have taken the stairs or parked far away at the shopping mall, as often espoused by advice givers to heavy people. It is because I have found activities that I love to do and so nothing can keep me away from them. Motivation is not a problem therefore. When I find myself laughing everytime the badminton birdie does something unexpected, or when the scenery takes my breath away while cross country skiing I know it will be nearly impossible for me to stop these activities.

    It is not the number on the scale that determines health, but body composition and this further influences the ability of body tissues to metabolize the substrates derived from eating. As Covert Bailey once said “if exercise could be packaged into a little pill, it would be the most highly prescribed drug in the world” so regardless of whether activity changes the number on the scale or not it is good for you. It makes the inside of you healthy.

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  2. It’s a lot harder for me to control my eating if I’m not exercising, I seem to need a fair bit of intensity to lose my snackiness. My weight will start to inch up if I slack too much, but it feels hormonal more than anything. I cannot control my depression without the exercise, and that may be the problem more than any caloric effect.

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  3. I’m another long-term maintainer who relies on a lot of exercise to keep my weight steady.

    Like Julie (above) I suffer from depression and find that exercise balances my moods, and, like her, think that exercise regulates the hormones which affect hunger and satiety.

    Basically, I think that I need a substantial amount of intense exercise to keep my body operating at an optimal level.

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