Exercise has endless benefits for overall health and longevity. There are endless ways to add in activity and exercise into our daily lives. Some of the benefits include:

  • Improves health and mood
  • It can help manage your body weight
  • Strengthen bones and muscles ( especially resistance training)
  • Improves heart health and reduces the risk of heart diseases
  • Improves sleep
  • Help lower blood sugar level
  • For pregnant mums, it can help reduce pregnancy complications such as Pre-eclampsia, Gestational Diabetes as well shorten the length of labour and push time
  • It can help speed up postpartum recovery
  • For those with arthritis, it can help ease joint pain and stiffness

As you can see, endless benefits!!!

While exercise is a good tool for helping us with our weight loss goals, achieving a calorie deficit is what truly matters and exercise can affect that in a negative way.

For us to understand this better, lets take a look at the components of the energy balance equation ( shown on the right). ————>


RMR (BMR) makes the biggest chunk of our daily calorie expenditure, followed physical activity and then TEF.

BMR (basal metabolic rate) are the calories we burn for vital functions ( sometimes referred to as RMR, resting metabolic rate), NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) are the calories we expend through spontaneous movements and activities of daily living such as fidgeting and doing chores, EAT (exercise activity thermogenesis) are the calories we burn through exercise and TEF (thermic effect of feeding) is the cost of digesting food ( Protein digestion burns more calories than fats and carbs).

As you can see above, a large chunk of our calorie expenditure is from RMR followed by physical activity ( combined EAT and NEAT).

Now, as mentioned earlier, exercise is great for us but can it actually stop us from losing weight if not designed to suit our end goals? The answer is, Yes it can!!!

A research was conducted where 34 women were put in a 12-week brisk walking program. Some women experienced improvements in weight and health markers and increased their physical activity but others decreased it! Di Blasio et al, (2012)

How? why? coming to that shortly.

There are other 3 different studies where adolescent obese individuals were put in high intensity exercise (70%+ VO2 max) but they failed to increased their daily energy expenditure. Thivel et al, (2014)

This brings about the question as to why even though in these studies individuals were put on activity inducing programs (so we’d think they would burn a lot of calories, right? ) but were unable to increase their daily energy expenditure.

To answer this, lets dive into the calorie expenditure part of the equation. We have BMR, NEAT, EAT and TEF. Of all these components, NEAT is the one component that research has shown over and over again to have the biggest impact on our daily calorie expenditure and achieving a deficit. For many of us, there are a few factors that make it difficult to hit that deficit including:

  • Having the mentality of “oh i worked out for an hour and i don’t need to move anymore and can eat however much i want”. The fact is, we don’t burn nearly as many calories as we think through exercise and mostly end up eating back all the calories, which can lead to even more weight gain
  • Workouts that leave you exhausted and diminish the chance of you moving around for the rest of the day leading to reduction in your NEAT ( this could also be your body’s way of regulating your energy expenditure)
  • The more weight you lose, the more efficient your body becomes in expending energy. This means you start to burn less calories for the same activities ( compared to before the weight loss). Resistance training can combat this increase in efficiency and allow the body to waste more energy and therefore expend more calories

Exercise is just ONE of the tools to help us expend energy but its not the one that matters the most as far as weight loss is concerned (again, we should all exercise for its other gazzilion benefits). A calorie deficit is still the game changer for weight loss goals!!!!! Improve your chances of achieving that deficit by:

  1. Focusing on your nutrition
  2. Exercise but also ensure that your exercises are inline with your goals and don’t over exhaust you so you can still keep your NEAT high else your body will try to conserve energy by spontaneously reducing your daily movement

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