Why does exercise alone not aid long-term weight loss?


YOU can run on the treadmill or lift weights until your face turns blue, but a new study examines why exercise alone will not aid weight loss over longer periods. According to the study, even if we exercise more, our bodies adapt to the higher activity levels and do not burn extra calories.
According to the latest study, our bodies adapt to higher physical activity levels, which is why exercise alone is not sufficient to maintain long-term weight loss.
The results are published in the journal Current Biology.
Current obesity prevention approaches focus on increasing physical activity, with the assumption that increased activity will dovetail into increased energy expenditure and will, ultimately, lead to weight loss.
However, the researchers of this latest study, led by Herman Pontzer of City University of New York, note that while these models are supported by studies that report positive correlations between physical activity and energy expenditure, they are called into question by ecological studies showing that more active populations do not have a higher total energy expenditure.
Although the health benefits of exercise are clear, the researchers say the long-term effects of physical activity on total energy requirements are less so.
And this is observable in the world of fitness, typically labeled as a “plateau,” whereby a person who starts an exercise program to lose weight sees immediate weight loss, only to have this taper off – or even reverse – after a few months.
When Pontzer was working among the Hadza, who are traditional hunter-gatherers in northern Tanzania, he noticed this relationship. “The Hadza are incredibly active,” he says, “walking long distances each day and doing a lot of hard physical work as part of their everyday life.”
“Despite these high activity levels, we found that they had similar daily energy expenditures to people living more sedentary, modernized lifestyles in the US and Europe,” he adds, noting that it was a “real surprise.”
There may be a ‘sweet spot’ for physical activity
As a result of his time spent among the Hadza, Pontzer and colleagues conducted a study in which they measured the daily energy expenditure and activity levels over 1 week in more than 300 men and women. Although they did observe a weak effect of physical activity on daily energy expenditure, further assessment revealed that the pattern only applied to subjects who were in the lower half of the spectrum of physical activity.
Detailed results showed that study subjects with moderate activity levels had daily energy expenditures that were about 200 calories higher than the most sedentary group.

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