The debate: does exercise lead to weight loss?

Exercising more means losing weight. Few of us question this logic. The American Physiological Society just released an article on a study that says exercise can prevent weight regain after dieting reaffirming this assumption. So why did Time Magazine staff writer John Cloud write an article arguing that intense exercise can instead lead to weight gain, and who is right?

Cloud says that after years of exercising four days a week, he still has a bulge of fat protruding from his waistline. He attributes this to the amount of food he eats and the type of food he craves after an intense workout. He cites several studies supporting this theory. In one study, the subjects are a group of women, some of which keep their regular diet and physical activity, and some of which increase their fitness routine. Cloud says those who increased their physical activity did not lose significant weight, and some even gained weight.

The APS study used rats as subjects and found that when they exercised during and after dieting, they were more likely to maintain a low calorie diet and keep the weight off than if they were sedentary during and after dieting. Exercise spurs the body to burn fat before carbohydrates, which sends signals of fullness to the brain, reducing appetite. The exercise also prevents new, small fat cells from forming which signify weight regain.

So, again, who is right? Perhaps the response should focus less on the weight aspect, and instead on what promotes the healthiest lifestyle. A recent Reuters article reports even moderate exercise will lead to a healthier life. Regardless of whether you shed pounds, physical activity reduces the risk of many common health problems, lessens fatigue and promotes mental wellbeing. So, if you find intense exercise is causing you to eat more and gain weight, then try cutting back on the intensity. The important thing is that you exercise.

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