As mentioned in articles by both the Guardian and Time.com, exercising alone doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose weight. According to Dr. Timothy Church (chair in health wisdom at LSU), this problem is a result of “compensation,” which means “Those who exercised cancelled out the calories they had burned by eating more, generally as a form of self-reward.”
Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity also noted that “If you’re more physically active, you’re going to get hungry and eat more.” Other forms of compensation also included not moving around as much after exercising.
So what are the implications of these observed behaviors?
It means that we need to be mindful of what we eat and that we maintain a balance between the intake and expenditure of calories. It’s also important to note that although exercise alone will not make you lose weight, it’s still good to exercise to keep weight off and to be healthy.
At the end of the Guardian article, standing and walking were brought up as forms of physical activity that won’t induce hunger as exercising does.
The latest scientific findings from the US suggest that an intense workout in the gym is actually less effective than gentle exercise in terms of weight loss. Barry Braun, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts, says that the evidence emerging from his research team shows that moderate exercise such as “low-intensity ambulation” (ie walking) may help to burn calories “without triggering a caloric compensation effect” – ie without making you reach for a snack the moment you’re done. In one experiment, Braun showed that simply standing up instead of sitting used up hundreds more calories a day without increasing appetite hormones in your blood.
Following this pattern of involving everyday activities such as standing and walking as a form of exercise, out of curiosity, I did a quick search to find out how many calories were burned after climbing a flight of stairs:
The above answer is true for “a” flight of stairs but if you’re using that as a measurement point don’t be discouraged; climbing stairs is in fact a great workout. According to one website, a 70-kg person (about 154 lbs) burns 10 calories per minute when ascending, and 7 calories per minute when descending, a flight of stairs. Therefore, if you climb up 10 sets of stairs (which will take an average of 5 minutes), you will burn 50 calories. That’s more or less the equivalent of one slice of bread for a 5-minute workout. Pretty impressive. – via Answers.com
In any case, a proper diet and being physically active go hand in hand in maintaining a healthy lifestyle along with keeping the weight off. Although popular programs such as Nike+ track calories burned during a run, it doesn’t account for calories taken in. On the otherhand, wellness programs such as Weight Watchers have successfully done just this (tracking caloric intake), but lack the ability to track or motivate the expenditure of calories.