Exercise is great for so many reasons, however in this post we will just touch on weight loss. Many people think that exercise is good for weight loss just because you burn calories. This combined with calorie restriction is a sure way to lose weight, but is there more to exercise than just burning calories? Absolutely. Exercise is a great way to boost your metabolism. We hear this term quite often but what does metabolism actually mean? Simply put, metabolism is the process by which our body processes energy. When I say exercise "boosts" metabolism, I mean our body is able to process energy (food) faster and more efficiently. Also, the body is better able to burn fat when exercise is incorporated.
Let me give an example to explain the first concept. Our body stores energy in three ways, glycogen (stored sugars), triglycerides (sugars converted into fat), and fat. When we don't exercise much, our body isn't as efficient at storing carbohydrates or sugars in the body. The average person can store about 2,000 calories from carbohydrates in their muscle and liver cells. Once sugars have filled up in these cells, something called de novo liponeogenesis occurs. Because there is no room left in the cells for the sugars to go, they spill over and turn into fat. So how does exercise have to do with this? By doing both anaerobic and aerobic exercises, we increase the size of the muscle cell, therefore creating more room for glycogen storage. More room for energy in the cells, less energy attributed to fat.
Another reason why exercise helps for weight loss is because of an increase in BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate. BMR refers to the number of calories you burn just by sitting around. A rule of thumb to know your BMR is to add a zero to your weight and that is the number of calories you burn in a day. This number isn't very accurate when exercise is involved, but when sedentary it is more reliable. When we do high intensity exercise especially, our metabolism increases. The great thing about this is that our metabolism doesn't just increase during the exercise, but even up to a day after! This is especially true of explosive exercises known as HIIT workouts or High Intensity Interval Training. No matter if you are walking for a few minutes a day, or doing pushups, you will increase your BMR. Here is a study on this point.
Lastly, increasing your body’s ability to burn fat. Remember that are bodies are programmed for survival. Our bodies are resistant to burning fat because that means we are down to our last resource, other than metabolizing our own muscle. When we are active, we train our body to be okay with burning fat. In other words, we develop fat burning enzymes like lipase to utilize fat stores. The more often we burn fat, the less our body freaks out. What is a good sign that your body isn't wanting to burn fat? Appetite. This is the most difficult aspect of weight loss, and it can be tamed by exercise. Appetite is a cue to your brain that you are out of fuel and that you need food immediately. Once your body has learned that there is plenty of fat to burn, you can go longer without that insatiable appetite. Just a warning though, when you begin exercising this appetite may even be worse than before. Be patient as your body adapts and your appetite will decrease.
In conclusion, exercise is beneficial for weight loss for many other reasons other than just burning calories. Exercise will increase your metabolic efficiency and improve fat burning. The nice thing about exercise is that the more you do it, the better you become which in turn also increases results. If you're new to exercise, or coming back from a break, start slow and work your way up. This gives your metabolism time to adapt. Training too hard too fast can negatively impact your metabolism.