Is Exercise Overrated? Top 10 Tips For Health & Weight Loss

As we move toward talking more about personal finance I want to wrap up our health talks with my opinion on exercise…

My belief is that it is overrated and here is why…

Without doing any “exercise” at all you are already burning calories. This is called your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). Most people call BMR by the other term “metabolism”.

Exercise is in addition to your BMR. Now without any exercise at all you have three choices. Eat less then your BMR and lose weight. Eat about the same as your BMR and maintain your weight. Eat more then your BMR and gain weight.

Now your BMR can be increased by many things. Most notably, the more muscle mass you have the higher your BMR is likely to be. This is why I recommend weight lifting over cardio in any weight loss exercise plan.

Adding exercise to the mix can only help you lose more weight, but here is the issue. People who exercise often get more hunger pangs and therefore eat more to compensate for the extra calories they burn. They often “reward” themselves for an hour on a treadmill by eating an extra piece of cake, or whatever other food you can imagine. This erases any gain they might have seen and is a waste of an hour in the gym if you ask me.

Think of it this way, in the financial sense….

Cardio only pays you once. You burn the calories then and there, but it doesn’t help you burn calories in the future. Weight lifting helps you burn calories there, AND also helps you burn calories in the future by increasing your BMR.

But my argument right now isn’t necessarily between cardio and weight lifting. My argument is that exercise is overrated as a way to weight loss. And it is overrated because people tend to eat MORE for the extra calories they expended in exercise.

Top 10 Tips for Health & Weight Loss

  1. Focus on Diet First – Take a food inventory. No matter if you find it tedious and boring count your calories for at least the first month. After that, you should have a pretty good idea of how many calories you are putting in your mouth.
  2. Stop drinking your calories – Water is your best choice. Tea is a good 2nd choice. Juice, milk, soda, coffee, wine, beer, etc. These all make up a much larger part of your daily calories then we realize. Especially when you are adding all that milk to your daily latte. Switching to drinking nothing but water or tea for a month will help give you the results you are looking for.
  3. Lift Weights – Man or woman, doesn’t matter. Make part of your exercise routine lifting weights. And women, please don’t be afraid of gaining bulky muscles. You won’t.
  4. Watch Your Sugar Intake – Especially artificial sweeteners such as High Fructose corn syrup which are in everything! Some artificial sweeteners don’t have calories, but their chemical makeup causes your body to crave more things that are sweet and calorie laden. Sugars found naturally in fruits are much better for you then sugars found in packaged and processed products.
  5. Sleep More. Rest More. – No excuses. Not only are we chronically dehydrated, we are also chronically sleep deprived. Lack of sleep definitely takes away our performance and makes life not as happy as it could be. Just ask Ben Franklin what more sleep could do for you.
  6. Eat Your Vegetables – There is a reason your mom always told you to eat your veggies as a kid. She knew they were good for you. One of my favorite authors, Dr. Weil, recommends a few above others. Namely, broccoli, spinach, and garlic. These all have nutrients we are commonly lacking, and/or have powerful antioxidants that help ward against disease.
  7. Get Emotional About Health – I’ve always been a pretty logical kind of guy, but I’ve made a realization in my life. Emotion is what creates Motion. You need a strong reason to get you to do the things you need to do to be healthy and/or lose weight.
  8. Understand Cause And Effect - Take some time to figure things out. What causes you to gain weight? What causes you to lose weight? Experiment. Don’t assume anything. Don’t listen to well meaning people who know nothing. Sift through all the information, find out what really works. Again, this goes back to the previous tip. If you don’t have a strong enough reason why, you won’t do the research.
  9. Monitor your progress – This goes back to the previous step too. You won’t know what works and what doesn’t if you don’t keep track of it. Write it down. Get your own health journal. Find out how much further you are running or how much more you are lifting. How much weight you are losing, and how much better you look in a mirror. Track anything and everything! Sometimes just the act of keeping track of everything will subconsciously help you to make better healthier decisions. This in turn will also help you to lose weight.
  10. Find balance in everything – This is probably the best piece of advice I have. Don’t go to extremes. Don’t exercise so much you kill yourself. I used to spend 2 hours every day in the gym. I saw results, I gained about 15-20 pounds of lean muscle mass, but it wasn’t sustainable. It lasted 4 months and I switched over to running 3 days a week. Likewise, don’t starve yourself to death. Your body will force yourself to eventually eat again because it is lacking the nutrition it needs. There are much better long term sustainable ways to have the body you want. You just need to find them and practice them.

And please understand that I am not advocating exercising less. I am trying to make it clear that you have to know what exercise is doing for you. What is the cause and effect? When you exercise more, do you simply eat more to compensate or do you hold your eating in check? Are you staying active doing things you enjoy?

I’m not saying that you can be a couch potato and lose weight or even be healthy. I am saying that exercise truly is overrated. It is not the end all, be all that it is made out to be for weight loss and healthy living. What you eat and how you live your life factor more into that then how much you exercise.

At the end of the day, you have to become well educated about your own body, and do what’s best for it. Half the problem is in finding the correct information, the other half is in doing it. Science helps us move faster than trial and error would, but not everything you read about health is science. Likewise, all the information in the world won’t help you lose weight or be healthy if you don’t put it into action.

Try things out yourself. Find what works, and stick with it. Be sure you are getting the desired results by monitoring and testing everything. Once you create the lifestyle that leads to good health then everything is easy from there.

As I move into talking more about personal finance, I will be referring back to articles like these often, because I do believe it is all connected. Health and Money Issues are very much alike. And it all comes down to your own personal development in the end. What kind of person do you want to be?

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and feelings in the comment section. And good luck to you in all you do! ;-)

Comments

  1. Jeremy,

    Your blog post, and argument, would have been strengthened by a discussion about exercising for health, not just for weight loss. While you are correct that strength training will burn the most calories at a resting heart rate, it will not provide the same lasting health benefits as cardiovascular exercise, i.e. increased lung and heart capacity and improved mental health. I’m certain any research will support this argument. Your one sided analysis about cardiovascular exercise being overrated is not a good message to be sending to your readers, considering weight loss is and should not be the only factor taken into account when we exercise. If this is the case, we are exercising for the wrong reason, as diet and weight loss are only two integral parts to a healthy lifestyle. The reality is people need to move, not just lift weights.

    • Hi Jason,

      Point well taken. As I finished the article I shared it with my girlfriend who also had the same point as you. “that exercise is important for more than weight loss reasons…”

      I am at fault for trying to talk about too many points at once, but I had hoped that I made it clear that exercise for weight loss is overrated. And I could have emphasized the fact that exercise for health and general well being is not overrated. (In fact, I just added a few more words at the end in an attempt to clarify)

      I would argue with you that strength training can and does provide increased lung and heart capacity as well as improved mental health too. Especially circuit training which is just another form of cardiovascular exercise.

      The problem with talking about health and exercise is that certain words, like health and exercise, mean a whole lot of things. And sometimes contradictory things to different people. And without testing (blood work, etc…) we can only discuss health in a subjective way instead of an objective way.

      My hope is that people will try to think about some other things that influence their health then just keep telling themselves to “exercise more”. Exercising more will not necessarily improve your health, and may possibly be a detriment to your health if you over exercise.

      I am making an assumption (perhaps a faulty one, for lack of reader comments) that most of my readers up to this point are exercising and trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Yet most don’t know exactly how to do it, or they want more ideas to work with. But most importantly, they need ideas to help them follow through with everything they have learned. I’d like to know more about my readers actually…

      This is why I embarked on this path in the first place. I realized that a large part of personal development is in improving and maintaining the body you live in. It is our physical connection to the world. We don’t exercise for better health, we exercise so that we can do the physical things we want to do until the day we die.

      I always welcome opposing opinions as it helps create further discussions and learning. I stand by my conclusion that exercise in general is overrated, but I may write from the opposing view point just to stay balanced. Yet, everything I learned up to this point has helped me to conclude that their are many other things you could be doing to improve your health then to spend another hour on a treadmill burning calories that you will simply compensate for by eating more.

      Where is your research to support the argument that strength training (specifically circuit training) can not give the same lasting health benefits as “cardiovascular exercise?”

      Lifting weights is moving, but I do agree that people need to move more, not less.

      Cheers,
      Jeremy

  2. A cool blog post there mate ! Cheers for the post .

  3. I’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time on my own just by eating better but I think it is time to try a diet pill or hcg drops. I have been considering decatrim after reading your blog. Thanks

  4. Jeremy this is the first time visiting your blog, quite nice I must say. For the first time in my life I grained what others could say much needed weight. It happened so rapidily I’ve been trying to find ways to get it a little more under control so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks.

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