It’s been a good news/bad news situation in the fitness world for the past few months.
The bad news
A study of how physical activity affects metabolism found that our bodiesal automatically compensate for at least a quarter of the calories we burn during exercise. So if you thought the upside of walk-running for 5 minutes from the shuttle at 42nd Street to the A train was burning 100 calories; unfortunately, you strolled through the garbage swamp to only burn about 72-75 calories (this, of course, varies from person to person).
For a really long time, exercise scientists believed in the caloric deficit model to weight loss. You know, you burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Sounds simple enough, but the theory hasn’t held for everyone. So scientists went back to the drawing board and found that humans might not expend as much energy as we think. So first, researchers looked at data for about 1,750 adults, measuring how many calories they burn just breathing, standing, walking, and fidgeting. Then, using a statistical model, the researchers calculated whether they burned more calories as they moved more.
Surprise! People did not tend to burn more calories. On the contrary, they seemed to be burning only about 72% as many additional calories as would be expected, on average. An important thing to note about the study, the researchers did not factor diet in the study, which can clearly have a significant impact on weight loss and weight gain.
The good news
Another study found that consistent exercise, not weight loss, contributes to a longer, healthier life. The researchers found that even among overweight and obese people, exercise typically lowered the risk of heart disease and premature death far more than losing weight or dieting.
The study, which was an analysis of more than 200 meta-analyses and individual studies on fitness, found that sedentary, obese adults who begin to exercise and improve their fitness can lower their risk of premature death by as much as 30% or more, even if their weight does not change. The study author said this puts them at lower risk of early death than people who are considered to be of average weight but out of shape.
So what does this mean?
Basically, it can mean everything and nothing, depending on your goals.
If your goal is to lose weight, maybe you should re-evaluate your plan. Exercise should be a piece of your healthy lifestyle, but perhaps it’s not central to meeting your weight loss goal. Possibly focusing on your diet — nutrient-dense foods that provide protein and fiber — and less on how many calories you burn during your Stronger sessions with Ife will help you meet that weight loss goal you’ve been struggling to meet.
If you have a general fitness goal, just keep doing what you’re doing. But maybe it’s time to kick it up a notch. Challenge yourself. Have you tried Pilates Chair yet? What about Beats & Barres? Expanding your fitness horizon can only lead to good things (and sore thighs).
If you have no fitness goals, consider setting some. Goals help keep you focused. When you’re tired after a long day of work or the general frustration of life, it’s easy to say, “forget the gym; I’m watching Netflix.” But goals can motivate you to follow through on a plan. Whether it’s a short-term goal like holding a wall sit for 1 minute or a long-term goal like becoming a Pilates instructor, setting those goals can keep you focused and accountable.