There is a common misconception that exercise burns lots of calories. Well, yes, it does burn calories but not many. For example, if you ate 10 peanuts you would have to run roughly a mile at a decent pace to burn them off. So if your strategy to manage over-indulgence is to ‘run it off’ you would soon become a marathon runner. You would, at least, be fit, but this isn’t very sustainable for most people. Research also shows that people eat more when they have exercised.
For these reasons, the media would have you believe that exercise is futile as a weight loss strategy. However, this is far from true as exercise will do many, many things to your body that will allow you to lose weight much more easily and become a healthier person.
Five Ways Exercise Can Help You Lose Weight:
Exercise helps you build muscle: Muscle is a very metabolically active tissue, meaning that it burns calories even when you are just sitting watching the TV. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, i.e your metabolic rate goes up.
Exercise stimulates AMPK (AMP protein kinase): AMPK is an enzyme, also sometimes called the metabolic master, which ramps up the amount of energy each cell burns. This means that your cells will be burning more fat.
Exercise improves insulin sensitivity: Insulin is a hormone which drives glucose from your bloodstream into your cells for use as fuel. The better your insulin sensitivity, the better your cells are able to use glucose for energy rather than storing it as fat. Conversely, insulin levels rise if your cells become less sensitive to this hormone, and high amounts of circulating insulin put your body into fat-storing mode. Exercise will help to reverse this and encourage your body to switch to fat-burning mode.
Exercise turns white fat into brown fat: Brown fat is something that babies and small children have a lot of. It’s a good thing because, like muscle, it is metabolically active, so will burn fuel even when you are sitting still. This is why children can wander around in winter with barely any clothing on, as their brown fat is burning fuel and creating heat to keep them warm. So more brown fat and less white fat means you will be using up more calories all the time, even on your non-exercise days.
Exercise boosts mood: Exercise increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is one of the feel good chemicals in your brain. Low levels of this neurotransmitter are a common contributory factor in people who have trouble losing weight as it causes food cravings, especially cravings for comforting high-carbohydrate foods, such as bread, pasta and potatoes. So plenty of exercise not only makes you feel good, it also means you are less likely to reach for the comfort foods later on.
While all of these physiological changes are going to make it much easier to lose weight, the great knock-on effect is that you will also be improving your health significantly.