Ask a hundred people to name a few reasons for exercise, and I’d bet nearly all of them would include burning calories or losing weight among their responses. But the truth is that while exercise can certainly be a powerful tool in accomplishing those goals, most of us have unrealistic expectations for its ability to do so.
There are so many great reasons to exercise. It decreases depression, makes you less prone to injury, improves your blood function, lowers your risk of cancer, improves your endurance, lowers stress, and the list goes on and on and on.
Very often, people contemplate joining a gym or beginning a new exercise regimen because they’ve made a commitment to lose weight. We may think about sweaty people on bikes pedaling away or the contestants we saw grunting on an exercise ball on the most recent episode of Biggest Loser.
The problem is that for people who are overweight and looking to change their lifestyle, exercise is not initially going to be the best tool for losing weight. Because of an initially low tolerance (both psychological and physiological) for exercise, many untrained individuals who are overweight are not able to burn more than 300-400 calories in an hour-long work out. (The good news is, the longer you do it, the more tolerance you develop. It just takes time.)
This is not to say exercise should be left out of a weight-loss program. It is to say that exercise should be considered merely as one component. Other components might include journaling, working with a professional to identify some of the causes of previous weight gain, consulting a nutritionist, and (importantly) finding ways to alter one’s diet.
Exercise! Certainly. Get out there and move. It’s good for all of us. Appreciate it for the many benefits it offers. But don’t hold unrealistic expectations for its ability to contribute to significant weight loss (especially not in the initial stages of an exercise program). Having that mindset will help you accomplish your goals more efficiently.