Fitness Myths – Episode One: You Should Exercise To Lose Weight

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  3. Fitness Myths – Episode One: You Should Exercise To Lose Weight

There’s no shortage of fitness advice out there. The trouble is, not all of it is good fitness advice, nor is a lot of it even true! Believing some of this advice about how you should train, exercise or workout just leads to you feeling confused, disheartened, not getting the results you want, exhausted, or all of the above.

Fitness “facts” that are over-simplified, designed to get you to spend money on something you don’t need or even entirely untrue, are only going to send you down the wrong path.

And we don’t want that – exercise should be joyful and effective. It should empower you and make you feel confident and capable.

Being content with your body shouldn’t be a mystery.
Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to be clearing up a few things so that you can make more informed decisions when it comes to your fitness and nutrition.
Here is the first:

Numero Uno – Weight loss is the goal of exercise.

A common one, but this is an oversimplified notion.
Any sort of movement that you do intentionally to challenge your body outside of its resting state (aka exercise!), shouldn’t be done with the sole aim of making you lose weight.


Firstly, weight loss itself is an unhelpful aim to have without nailing down what you actually mean by that.

Do you mean reducing the numerical value of your relationship with gravity (aka what the scales tell you)?

Well, think about it; you can lose weight from going to the toilet, being dehydrated, taking your shoes off, blowing your nose and cutting your fingernails, having eaten less salt in the few days before you got on the scales, removing one of your legs etc.

But none of those things were what you meant when you said you wanted to lose weight, were they?

Making yourself feel happier with how you look in clothes is what you meant.

Making yourself feel happier with how you look naked is what you meant.

Changing the shape of your body is what you meant.
So, a lower level of body fat, visible muscle growth and “tone”, are what you meant.

“Weight loss” is a red herring. That means it’s a distraction at best, and dangerous at worst.

Change your goal by defining what you actually mean, and you’ll start to make much more positive, healthy and lasting progress.

Secondly, exercise alone isn’t actually the quickest way to reduce your body fat.

It definitely helps! But your body is really clever and will find any way possible to adapt and hold on to its energy reserves. This means that if you keep asking it to do the same thing, it will get used to what you’re asking it to do so that the only way for it to continue working, is for you to do it for longer or make it continuously harder.

Now, none of us has an infinite amount of time to spend on the “do it for longer” option, so continuously harder it is.

This is also known as “inefficient exercise” and is the most effective way to disrupt your energy balance.
What is inefficient exercise, you might ask?

I had a client ask me this once. She was doing a set of walking lunges up and down my gym at the time (< this is relevant).

She told me she walked for miles every day but it didn’t make her lose any weight.

There are a few reasons for this:
The energy system that walking uses is steady state cardiovascular; aerobic exercise. This type of exercise is easy to do and to sustain. It becomes easier and easier to do and your appetite slightly increases to offset the energy used. This means that the reason it’s hard to use this energy system (and method of exercise) to lose weight, is because it is conducive to maintaining overall energy balance, fitness and body fat levels.

Which is a great thing and a really important takeaway from this article.

But, that alone won’t have been enough to cause the disruptive internal chemical changes needed to make a noticeable difference to body fat levels and increase muscle mass to a sexy level – and we’ve established that this is what we mean by “lose weight”, right?


Because with the steady state, aerobic, easily sustainable for a long time type of activity, your body only uses extra energy whilst you’re doing it.

So, you have to do it for longer to use more energy.
Who has infinite amounts of time for this? Not I. Nor you, most likely.

Anyway, I explained that inefficient exercises are loaded movements, movements that use resistance to make them harder (making use of your bodyweight against gravity or lifting weights) that your body cannot maintain for very long and that break down, then create new, muscles.

This requires the use of your anaerobic energy system and it requires a level of intensity that your body can only sustain over a short period. Think about a set of 30 second squat jumps, press-ups or kettlebell swings; during this, your body expends energy faster than your blood can supply your muscles with oxygen.
To keep your muscles energized in this oxygen-deprived state, your body triggers anaerobic metabolism. You don’t need to and cannot keep this level up for long.

When you’re finished, your metabolic rate continues functioning at an increased speed for several hours.

Repeated anaerobic exercise – moving against resistance, also helps you build stronger, denser muscles, which also raises your resting metabolic rate, causing you to use more energy even in your sleep!

I have to re-emphasize here that being active is really important. Movement is important. I’m not advocating against going for intentional walks and moving at a rate you can keep up for hours because you want to and it’s good for you. Being sedentary is always bad choice. Unless sleep.

But back to the story. I told my client that inefficient exercise – moving against resistance, is the way to shake things up and disrupts the “I want to stay the same” attitude of her body, is what she needed rather than walking for longer and longer each day.

She asked me what that meant. Remember she was doing walking lunges during this conversation? Taking her bodyweight down onto one knee and back up again against gravity repeatedly?

I told her to do her next walk in the manner of which she was currently moving and see how long she could keep it up for – lunging is a pretty inefficient way to do laps of the park!

And that is what will make a much bigger impact on your body in terms of body fat and gorgeous muscle levels.

If you’re exercising solely with the aim of “losing weight”, it’s only going to frustrate you because:
Your body is great at adapting to what you’re asking it to do by adjusting your metabolic rate and asking you to eat more food so you end up staying the same, especially if you prioritise cardiovascular exercise over resistance training.
If you listen to people like me and exercise using resistance instead, you’ll build muscle. Muscle weighs more than fat whilst at the same time taking up less space (i.e it’s denser) so that your weight might not change much or even at all, but your body shape and size absolutely will look very different (and sexier 😉)

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