It’s commonly believed that the way to lose weight starts eating healthy followed by exercise. In a perfect world, a few weeks go by and the pounds start falling off and you start feeling better about yourself. The clothes from years past start to fit again; you feel great.
But if losing weight was that easy, everyone would be twigs — and a new study finds that people would need to exercise a ton in order to lose any weight.
By a ton, try six days a week for about 300 minutes total.
That goes well beyond the recommended 150 minutes (or 30 minutes, five times a week) guidelines of moderate physical activity per week, which means the daily walks around the neighborhood might promote good health, but it isn’t doing nearly enough if you’re looking to shed some pounds.
But new research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise recommended the new guidelines after looking at how participants compensate for energy expended during a 12-week exercise trial.
The participants were adults age 18 to 40 and all had a body mass index of 25 to 35, which places them in either the overweight or obese range. Participants were placed in groups that either had six exercise session per week, two each week, or were sedentary control.
The study, led by Kyle Flack, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, found that people need to burn around 3,000 calories per week through exercise if they want to see significant weight loss, which creates a tricky slope when it comes to the relationship between exercise and eating.
When you exercise more, your body is naturally going to burn calories quicker which means you’ll need to refuel somehow. That comes by eating more because your appetite increases, which means all that work you put in to exercising simple negates itself.
“Exercise isn’t useless for weight loss, but we do tend to eat more when we exercise, which offsets some of calories that we have burned,” Flack said in a press release earlier this year. “Both groups compensated about 1,000 calories per week more because they were exercising, which was mostly due to eating more. Their metabolic rate only decreased slightly.”
For the group that burned 3,000 calories per week, they lost nearly six pounds by the conclusion of the study, while the group that aimed for 1,500 calories per week did not have any significant weight loss, according to researchers.
So, what does this mean in the big picture? With the holidays coming and stress-eating at a peak due to the coronavirus pandemic, many have shifted toward exercise as a way of managing their health, especially stress. But if you’re looking to slim back, you’re going to need around 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise for five days.