Weight… What?

I had to read the headline twice: Exercise May Lead To Weight Gain, Not Loss, Study Finds.

One of the main reasons I exercise is to maintain my weight, but this research shows that it may have the opposite effect.

Here’s a brief summary of the study:

Researchers at Loyola University Chicago in Illinois recently released research conducted upon young adults, aged 25 to 40, in five countries: the United States, South Africa, Jamaica, Ghana, and Seychelles. Using tracking devices to measure participants’ activity, each participant also had their height, weight, and body fat recorded during an initial exam. They would participate in two follow-up exams in annual increments. These subsequent exams revealed that for each country examined, those who participated in moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes a week actually gained slightly more weight than those who did not.

Are you kidding me? All this exercise I do is actually working against me in terms of managing my weight?

Though physical fitness can help prevent ailments such as heart disease and diabetes and improve mental fitness by boosting one’s mood, the researchers determined “it also increases appetite, and people may compensate by eating more or by being less active the rest of the day.”

OK. Guilty as charged. I do admit to perhaps sneaking in some junky food, knowing that I will be exercising later to make up for it. And once I get my morning workout in, I do kind of feel like I’m done for the day, and can take it pretty easy.

So it’s really not the exercise itself that is leading to weight gains, it is a person’s “negative” behavior as a result of their exercise activity.

The study also suggests that a sedentary lifestyle has no direct correlation with weight gain; the best predictors of weight gain were age, the participants’ weight at the initial visit, and gender.

And in an interesting side note, Americans were found to not only be the heaviest of the five nationalities on average, but reported exercising much less than participants from other countries.

That’s not good for Americans, and it also contradicts this study; if Americans don’t exercise much, shouldn’t they weigh less?

Anyway, I don’t plan to stop exercising, but I will try to modify my behavior post-workout…

If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the study, here is the link.

*image from Impulse Gamer



52 thoughts on “Weight… What?

      1. Too a point I suppose it is…I’m on a good run at the moment ..right mindset I call it…How long it will last who knows I am starting with a month as I have eaten far too much of the bread and cakes I have been making …sigh

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  1. Although muscle mass does weigh more than fat, unless you are actually building muscle mass through strengthening exercises like weight lifting or calisthenics, you should not expect weight gain from your workout. Most people’s workouts are centered around aerobic exercise. Sometimes, in the early stages of starting a workout routine, you will see weight remain steady or even possibly gain a few pounds, but eventually fat should be shed and increased muscle tone will begin to reshape the body. Of course, if your workout gives you a different sense of what you can eat and not gain weight, you may have to rethink that. You are not working out so you can have a cheeseburger later that day and suffer no consequences. You are working out because of all the cheeseburgers before you started working out. I have often recommended that people not worry about the number on the scale, it can be deceiving. It can undermine all the hard work you put into trying to be healthier. It is better to focus on how you feel and how your body is changing shape. If after a few weeks of working out, you feel better, sleep better, and your clothes begin to not fit correctly, you are likely moving in the right direction regardless of what the scale says. And a diet of the correct foods is always a factor whether you workout or not. I think for Americans the better advice to lose weight would be to change our eating habits. Eat only when you are actually hungry and only eat until you are no longer hungry. Unfortunately, our American lifestyles rarely put us in a position to know what hungry is anymore. We just know when it is “time” to eat.

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    1. thank you for your thoughtful comments, Brad, and I agree 100% with everything you say. I’d say health, at least in terms of just diet and exercise, is 75% diet and 25% exercise. And the exercise is not really about the weight loss, it’s about all the other positive benefits it provides. But I have to admit, I often justify eating some junk food because I exercised that morning…

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    1. just saw this after commenting on Brad’s comment. I agree that diet is much more important than exercise when it comes to health (I made it 75/25). And exercise is bout so much more than weight loss or weight maintenance…


  2. So, I just finish a 45 minute power walk outside, feeling pretty good about myself, and I sit down, open up Word Press and this pops up!!!! Seriously, good information, I know I am guilty of the thought process that since I worked out I can have a reward of a bit of chocolate!! (sometimes more than a bit). Great post and great reminder to watch those sneaky “reward” calories!! I do believe in healthy eating and exercise. I lost 64 lbs in 2010-2011 by eating right and exercising. I also was taken off all of my diabetic medicines, and remain off of them. So I do believe exercise is life changing,

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  3. Thanks for sharing. From personal experience I avoid working out to HIIT style exercising, as not only does it give me a burning appetite for the rest of the day, destroying myself as the study mentions also means I’m more likely to spend more time on the couch to recover.

    I have found that I have gained weight from working out, though it does depend what I focus on. If I’m mostly focusing on cardio and weights for reps then I get lighter on the scale, but if I mostly focus on heavy weight training I put on size.

    Currently I weigh slightly heavier (207 lbs) than when I first joined a gym because I was fat and out of shape. The positive is I don’t have the inches round the waist which have (mostly) been redistributed to other parts of my body.

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  4. Wow, really? Nice info.
    I too need to be careful with exercise because what I do might also work against me. I have diastasis recti so ordinary stomach training before pregnancy is a big no-no now. Suck because I’m so jealous of my husband easily lost weight.

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  5. This is an interesting twist. Pelvic floor exercises are often recommended for postpartum care. But this is an unconventional twist.

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  6. So what the article is really saying is that you are what you eat and that maintaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle choice and not just going to the gym three times a week. That makes perfect sense and what the article says is true about people feeling that if they exercise they can eat more. I see that all the time. I don’t exercise much and my weight never moves, except now over Covid-19 when it has dropped.

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      1. Is no air conditioning typical in South Africa? By the way, we just watched a wonderful documentary (My Octopus Teacher) that was set in South Africa, near Simon’s Town on Cape Peninsula…


    1. exactly, health is a function of many things, not the least of which is our attitude and behavior. Exercise has multiple benefits, with weight loss potentially being one of them. But diet plays a key role as well…


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