Scientific Studies Show Exercise Causes Weight Gain

20 08 2014


Aerobic workouts good for the cardio Muscular endurance

Aerobic workouts good for the cardio Muscular endurance

Original Publication:  Oct 24 2009.  Revised 20 Aug 2014

Although your favorite fitness guru or celebrity may be the picture of health and you want to look just like them…  Keep this in mind, they make a lot of money selling fitness products and services that may actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose it.  Which may be just the opposite of the fitness results you hope to achieve.

Regardless of exercise equipment and dietary products that guarantees weight loss… The odds are not in your favor for long term weight loss success and you may actually gain weight.  Unless you have a customized fitness program developed specifically for you, or you use a program designed for someone else, weight gain may be the result as opposed to loss.

Relative and customized fitness program development should include and address individual lifestyle and environmental factors:  e.g., culture, behaviors and habits, medical condition(s), genetics, motivation, energy levels, body type and fitness goals.  For example, body fat, lean muscle mass, strength, cardio and muscular endurance and flexibility.

If your not sure how to custom design a fitness program might I suggest securing a professional fitness trainer or consultant for 1:1 fitness sessions that include assessments and development of a relative exercise program to get you on track.  The encompassing being requires task specific exercise and diet relative to individual mind, body and spirit needs and wants.   In the long run this strategy will pay off because you can optimize your efforts and results.

Now science supports the fact that exercise can add on the pounds if other considerations are not modified within lifestyle and environment as we age. Let’s look at a significant study that specifically addresses the compensation effect on body after exercise and what this really means for your weight management program.

“45 million Americans now belong to health clubs, up from 23 million in 1993. We spend some $19 billion a year on gym memberships. One major study illustrates – The Minnesota Heart Survey found more of us say we exercise. From 1980 to 2000, 47% of respondents exercised regularly and then these figures increased to 57%, ending the 20 year survey. Even with 45 million people today using fitness centers obesity figures increased during this period. The Federal government’s definition of obesity classifies 1/3 of all Americans as obese. Those that participated in the survey admitted after they exercise, their hungrier and eat more. This is not to discount the notion that those who may not participate in gym activities may weigh more otherwise.”

“In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless,” says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University, a prominent exercise researcher. Although exercise does burn calories, it also makes us hungrier. “Exercise, in other words, isn’t necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.” “The compensation Problem – The PLoS (Public Library of Science) published a remarkable study supervised by a colleague of Ravussin’s Dr. Timothy Church. Four groups totaling 464 overweight women who didn’t regularly exercise were selected for this study. Women in 3 of the groups worked with a personal trainer for 6 months; Group 1 exercised – 72 minutes/wk, Group 2 exercised- 136 minutes/wk and Group 3 exercised – 194 minutes/week. Although the study did not specify the exercise routines, one gets the notion exercises were balanced between aerobic and anaerobic activity with a personal assigned trainer.”

“The women in the 4th cluster did not change their lifestyle activities, but did fill out a monthly health questionnaire. The results were surprising. All groups of women lost weight, even the control group. It is most likely the control group through the use of monthly questionnaires learned more about their health and thereby modified their diets by eating fewer donuts, muffins, Starbucks coffee, for example. Some of the women in each group actually gained weight, some up to 10 pounds. Church calls this the compensation effect. Whether exercise made them hungry, or they wanted to reward themselves… Most of the women who exercised ate more than they did before they started the experiment!”

“This is an important study because our government’s medical organizations since the 60’s tell us to exercise if we want weight loss. Including in 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association issued new guidelines stating that “to lose weight…60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary. That recommendation covers most days of the week.”

“It’s true that within the study most participants were able to trim their waistline by only about an inch. The other interesting aspect, even so, they lost no more overall body fat than the control group. Church asks the control group other questions to further understand this phenomenon. He finds within each group the women are rewarding themselves with Starbucks coffee and muffins for example. Well, after you add these calories to calories burnt, you get a wash in weight loss benefits.” Another good example, a bottle of Gatorade electrolyte drink, 20oz bottle has 130 calories. You can drink this in a matter of seconds if you’re really thirsty. If your aerobics activity is treadmill walking for 15 minutes this is probably a wash from net calorie expenditure.”

“Steven Gortmaker, heads Harvard’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity, he studies child obesity. Since its proven exercise makes you hungry, one must ask a question regarding our kids and fast food places. He is suspicious of playgrounds at fast-food restaurants. The contention is, if a kid plays 30 minutes, it may be enough to stimulate hunger where the child instead of consuming 500 calories, instead consumes 1000.”  ‘In 30 minutes of play, for example, the child may have only expended 200 calories to play, creating a net 800 calorie gain!”

“Church states, we all need to move toward proper weight control, but stressing and depleting the body’s muscles in short bursts using stressful exercise is not necessarily the best way to loss body weight. Also the brain may feel greater entitlement to eat fast foods after we’ve exerted most of our high intensity energy at the gym. Instead, energy would have been better served by increasing daily activities like walking, healthy food shopping, preparing wholesome meals, gardening, a balanced mix using gym activities, walking, biking, etc.”

[Quote excerpts posted above, Published by Time Magazine, August 17, 2009, “Why Exercise Won’t Make you Thin,” by John Cloud. Posts have been modified by the author within quotes to quickly make points in support of this article.]

Science tells us anaerobic activity typical during strenuous weight lifting activities increases muscle mass which is heavier by volume than fat. Muscle mass increases will tip the scales heavier when muscle bulking and anaerobic out pace aerobic exercise and you’ll burn less body fat.

Optimizing weight loss and toning the body requires a customized fitness training program with a focus on aerobic activity.  Where low-medium intensity aerobic activities such as walking, jogging, biking and hiking burn more body fat as the preferred fuel.

Regardless of the exercise program,

Any muscle groups worked daily at any intensity of effort will tell the mind the body is hungry. The will power to ignore the brains signal to over nourish the working muscles after glucose and muscle glycogen are used, or depleted is a great mind over matter challenge at any age before and during meal times.  Having a preplanned and balanced diet in place prior to starting an exercise program is important when looking to increase muscle mass and/or decreasing body fat.  Otherwise food rewards and convenience snake foods may become your weight gain nemesis.

One thing I can assure you… To not remain active with some form of activity exercise as you age, opposed to becoming a couch potato is a grave mistake!  Regardless of how many calories you burn/don’t burn or weight you gain/lose during exercise… to not move the body enough throughout the day can only cause the body circulatory problems, weight bearing injuries and pain and additional unhealthy body weight and other illness and disease.

If you’d like to dial in on the weight loss or muscle development potential contact a certified fitness trainer to help you optimize your results and meet expectations.  Especially if your not satisfied with your current fitness program and results.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2014 Copyright, All rights reserved.  MirrorAthlete Corp. Publishing @:, Sign up for your free eNewsletter.





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