True or False – Exercise Will Get You in “Thin” Shape (Hint – This Is a Trick Question)

Let’s talk about a myth that people accept at face value entirely too much: that people who constantly exercise become thin. This just simply isn’t true. How many people do you know who engage in activities that burn TONS of calories, like marathoners, gym rats, or weight-lifting fiends, yet still don’t have body fat percentages that they’re happy with? Probably a few, right?

Well here’s the flip-side to that myth: exercise enhances weight loss ONLY if it creates a calorie deficit.

Another HUGE misperception that people have is how quickly they can destroy a calorie deficit within only a few minutes of eating a few “harmless” snacks. Many people don’t realize the seemingly unfair reality is that in about 30 minutes of moderate to somewhat strenuous exercise, you burn about 300 calories, but that in 3 minutes of little “rewards” for either the great sweat session you just put in or for something completely unrelated like drinks with friends or indulging a sweets craving…those can easily add up to 300+ calories and now you’ve just undone that hard-earned deficit in a matter of minutes. For example, something as seemingly harmless as a Grande White Chocolate Mocha with nonfat milk and no whipped cream…doesn’t sounds that bad, right? 344calories. There goes your workout right there.

I watched an experiment that perfectly illustrated the huge disparity between time + calories consumed and calories burned. One guy was on a treadmill and put the speed as high as he could run for about 2 minutes…he sprinted as fast as he could at about 10.5 mph with a slight incline. Meanwhile, his friend ate half a pizza along with a soda in the same amount of time and at the end of the 2 minutes, they compared results. The pizza friend had easily put away the half and had consumed about 800-900 calories of pizza, which combined with the soda came out to about 1000 calories, while the runner, gasping and about to collapse, had only burned 43 calories despite his best efforts.

If your calorie deficit can be thrown off by something as small and quickly consumed as a coffee beverage, let alone a half pizza, imagine how much damage can be done over a meal, or two…now think of that in terms of over the course of a week, a month…and now it’s easy to see how those pounds can creep up so quickly and why it takes so long to burn them off. That’s why it’s crucial to keep track of your meals, snacks, drinks etc. when you’re trying to lose weight because when you don’t have a chance to see the long-term patterns over a week or more, you easily forget the little snacks slipped in here and there, and all you remember is the long hours of exercise put in without seeming return.

That’s why having an exercise routine (or routines) that you enjoy is imperative because it means you’re way more likely to stick with it/them. People who only exercise as a mean to burn calories, but hate it and can’t wait til it’s over, tend to stop once they reach their weight goals…and of course, as soon as they stop, the cycle of gaining and losing starts all over again. Incorporating regular fitness into your life is just as important as adopting healthy eating habits, and not just “diets.” Any extreme means to achieve weight loss never last and only tend to send people into either deprivation mode where they end up bingeing when they can’t take it anymore, or worse, injury because they put their body through too much too quickly.

With 2012 starting and everyone still gung ho about their healthy resolutions, while the enthusiasm can be a great motivator and tool to start a new routine, wanting instant gratification and results then being disappointed and falling off the wagon when they don’t get them is a vicious cycle that occurs at the beginning of each New Year. Once it stops being “fun” and the novelty wears off, people revert right back to their old ways and continue to be miserable with their extra pounds and lack of energy, waiting for the next quick fix to come along, whether it’s a new celebrity-touted diet, supplement, or exercise

If you want your results to be reachable, and even more importantly, sustainable, then an understanding of how nutrition and fitness work together and how to implement that needs to become a part of your daily routine. Small changes can be made into habits much more easily than daunting 180’s (for example, “I’ll never eat sugar again, EVER!” Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts. As soon as you declare something forbidden, it ends up having power over you, which eventually results in a binge).

Unfortunately, a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t work for everybody because everyone has different preferences, appetites, patterns, body compositions, and schedules. So through patient trial and error, keep tweaking your diet and exercise to find what works best for you while keeping records of what does and doesn’t, and you’ll be well on your way to healthy sustainable habits that work for you, not against you. Wishing you all the best for 2012!


To help with your 2012 goals, the YMCA has a number of programs and personal training options in place. Ask one or our staff today about Coach Approach, Fitt Lynxx, Classes, Personal Training and much more. 

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