Americans spend more than $30 billion a year on weight loss products, and waste billions more on unused gym memberships, yet more than two-thirds of Americans are still overweight or obese. So what gives?
Before you spend another dime on exercise equipment, special sneakers or any other item you think will help you lose weight, here are some fascinating facts that could help you exercise more effectively and be more reasonable about your workout expectations.
Exercise experts and personal trainers will tell you that the best way to burn fat is to do cardiovascular exercise, but increasing your heart rate alone might not actually help you lose weight. In fact, your body’s response to exercise can depend on a host of outside factors we may not even consider before setting foot on a treadmill.
For instance, a low-intensity workout like an hour-long walk could help you lose weight better than 20 minutes of running might, suggests Dummies.com. And those who work out regularly but don’t switch up how they exercise can hit a weight loss plateau, so interval training might help the more fit lose those last few pounds.
If you’re lucky, exercise could help you stave off hunger, but many who are trying to exercise regularly could actually be revving up their cravings for carbohydrates and may actually end up consuming more than they would if they hadn’t exercised, according to The New York Times.
And when your body temperature rises due to exercise, it may make you less hungry, but as soon as your temperature normalizes, you could be hit with a bout of the munchies, according to Boston.com.
A diet high in protein can fill you up, however, while boosting your results at the same time, nutrition researchers have found. Check out WebMD’s tips on developing a high protein diet for weight loss, for example.
Over time, it’s natural for women to gain weight regardless of how much they exercise. The New York Times cited a study that followed a group of women for 13 years and found that at about 54 years old they gained about six pounds regardless of their exercise habits.
Your current fitness level also affects how well working out helps you lose weight. If you’re already in fairly good shape but you’re weight training to burn calories, you may be building more muscle instead of losing fat, notes MSN Health & Fitness.
In other words, if you do mostly resistance training, you may not be burning off enough calories. Abdominal exercise or push-ups, for example, only burn about two to four calories per minute while walking, running or dancing can burn about five to 10 calories per minute, according to MSN.
Exercisers Are Already Thin
Exercising may be easier and generally a more pleasant experience for those who are already thin compared to those on the heavier side, the Times says. And women who exercise regularly tend to start with lower body weights.
Anyone who has lost a lot of weight will tell you that the first 10 pounds are the hardest, so it’s no surprise that it may actually be easier to exercise in order to keep weight off rather than exercise to lose weight in the first place.
The Sports Drink Sham
Bottles of Gatorade are often available at the gym and commercials say these artificially-flavored and colored beverages will quench your thirst better than water, but the average 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade has about 130 calories, according to Time Magazine. If you drink one every time you work out, that could significantly take away from your exercise accomplishments.
Sports drinks and energy drinks may only benefit those who engage in serious endurance sports for more than an hour, according to The Children’s Hospital in Denver.
Gym Memberships May Waste Money
There are definitely merits to having a place to go where you really have no choice but to work out, but if you sometimes lack the motivation to get away from your desk or off the couch, gym memberships can be a serious waste of money. What’s worse is that many gyms require members to pay a full year in advance or sign on to year-long membership commitments, even if they rarely end up going.
The Good Side Effects of Exercise
Losing weight shouldn’t be your only motivation to exercise. Having a good workout can actually promote a sense of well-being, and have an antidepressant effect, scientists say.
So a bit of exercise might actually improve your own view of your natural physical shape whether or not you end up with a six-pack.
Need help motivating? Check out our story on how to avoid common exercise excuses.