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Exercise overrated?

This is copied and pasted from the Wikipedia on dieting:

"The ability of a few hours a week of exercise to contribute to weight loss can be somewhat overestimated. To illustrate, consider a 100-kilogram (220 lbs) man who wants to lose 10 kilograms (22 lbs) and assume that he eats just enough to maintain his weight (at rest), so that weight loss can only come from exercise. Those 10 (22 lbs) kilograms converted to work are equivalent to about 350 megajoules. (We use an approximation of the standard 37 kilojoules or 9 Calories per gram of fat.) Now assume that his chosen exercise is stairclimbing and that he is 20 percent efficient at converting chemical energy into mechanical work (this is within measured ranges). To lose the weight, he must ascend 70 kilometers. A man of normal fitness (like him) will be tired after 500 meters of climbing (about 150 flights of stairs), so he needs to exercise every day for 140 days (to reach his target). However, exercise (both aerobic and anaerobic) would increase the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) for some time after the workout. This ensures more calorific loss than otherwise estimated.
The minimum safe dietary energy intake (without medical supervision) is 75 percent of that needed to maintain basal metabolism. For our hypothetical 100-kilogram man, that minimum is about 5,700 kilojoules (1,300 calories) per day. By combining daily aerobic exercise with a weight-loss diet, he would be able to lose 10 kilograms in half the time (70 days). Of course, the described regime is more rigorous than would be desirable or advisable for many persons. Therefore, under an effective but more manageable weight-loss program, losing 10 kilograms (about 20 pounds) may take as long as 6 months."

That is very convoluted and I don't really understand it so maybe someone smarter and more experienced can explain it? What I basically took away from is it that exercise has an insignificant effect on weight loss compared to dieting, and that the average person cannot exercise enough to make a real difference.

I have just been trying to "move" and be active and my goal was not to be on a stairstepper for hours a day - and now this is telling me that even THAT wouldn't put a dent in my weight? So should is exercise a waste of time and energy in terms of significant weight loss, compared to dieting? Help!


Thu. May 17, 12:55am

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This is dream87 - the OP - again. I reread the paragraph and now what I am taking away from it is - with a "manageable" weight loss plan, combining diet and exercise, it will take 6 months to lose 20 pounds! I want to lose 30 in 3 months! I thought it was possible to lose 1-2 pounds a week just by eating less and exercising more but now stupid Wikipedia is making me feel like I am going to have to run marathons every day and eat a carrot stick to achieve that goal. :(

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 12:59 AM

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How much you can lose in a given period of time depends on a lot of individual factors (starting with how much you have to lose). It's true that most people have more to change about what they eat than they do in their exercise habits. It's easy to wolf down 800 calories in no time flat, but it's hard to do 800 calories worth of stairmaster.

I lost 30 pounds over more than a year to reach my goal weight. The advantage of this is that I didn't "go on a diet" -- I decided to live like a thin person, and gradually became one. It makes the change sustainable, and also means that I haven't had problems with ravenous appetite or anything like that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 1:07 AM

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Diet is 80% of weight loss. You can exercise every day but if you don't change your diet, you won't see results. If you make good healthy changes in your diet, you will definitely start to see the pounds melt off, AND if you add in the exercise, you will be even more successful. But diet comes first, all the experts agree.

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 1:18 AM

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I picture it this way...
Dieting makes you lose weight.
Exercise makes you look good.
I want both, so I do both.

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 1:35 AM

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Wikipedia is not peer reviewed and should never be depended upon for accuracy. Perhaps that paragraph was cited? If so, follow the link to the original research and maybe you will find some additional info. Otherwise "learner beware."

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 2:20 AM

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I like what the 1:35 AM poster said, and try to live that way as well. I see exercise as a very necessary part to an overall healthy lifestyle.

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 8:33 AM

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I've adopted the personal idea that if I'm making positive changes, I'm doing good things for myself. I've asked questions before about why my weight was going in the wrong direction, etc... and been told that I don't workout "enough". I certainly think that everyone on PT means to be as helpful as they can, but to me "enough" has become, "more than I did." So OP, if you didn't workout at all, and you add a walk to your weekly routine, it's positive. It might not lead you to drop 10 pounds in a month, but it's certainly pushing you in that direction...

So, keep a positive spin on the changes you are making. As an earlier poster said, it's important to make them sustainable... and don't worry too much about Wiki. (I agree with the earlier poster, it's not peer reviewed).
Good luck! (and if you don't make any changes, even small ones, you won't see any results... so aren't little results better than none?)

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 8:55 AM

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And, OP, even by your calculations you won't be able to lose 30 in 3 months. There are 12 weeks in 3 months. Take an average of 1.5 lb/week weight loss (either by reducing intake or increasing exercise or a combination of the two), which you said you expect. This means that in 12 weeks you can expect to lose 18 lbs. This is very respectable. Even if you lose 2 lb/week, you'll still only lose 24 lb. in 3 months.
You are more likely to reach your goals if they are realistic. If you set unrealistic goals, you'll feel very frustrated very soon and may give up.
We all want to be gorgeous by next week, but it doesn't work like that, unfortunately.

In any case, good luck!

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 9:50 AM

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1-2 lbs is a healthy amount of weight loss per week.

3500 calories is equal to a pound (to sort of translate the above into "American" English.) That means that, if what you've been doing has caused your weight to remain stable (and not slowly be climbing), then if you reduce your calories by 500 a day, you'll have a deficit of 3500 cals a week = 1lb of weight loss. If you reduce your calories by 1000 a day, you'll lose 2lbs a week.

You can reduce calories two ways: by reducing the number of calories you consume, and by increasing the number of calories you burn.

I find that a very tough cardio workout burns about 10 calories a minute, for me, according to the machines, which I've heard overestimate. So, I'd have to do 50 minutes of intense cardio to burn 500 calories. I am not in good enough shape to do 50 minutes of intense cardio. Maybe I could do 20. So then I have my deficit of 200 calories, from exercise. If I cut an additional 300 cals from my food, I'll lose 1lb a week.

So, the article is both right and wrong. You can lose 1-2 lbs per week safely, but you need to do more than just climb some stairs. Also, over time, the person should be able to go farther and faster before they get tired.

Thursday, May 17, 2007, 10:34 AM

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Remember the number on the scale measures many things, water retention, muscle mass, etc. Somedays you will retain water because of the sodium in your diet or monthly cycle. Once you begin exercising you will develope muscles which weigh than fat. The scale may not move but your clothes will feel looser. Eat and move for good health and not just to be a slave to the scale. Good luck.

Monday, June 04, 2007, 4:40 PM

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You lose fat when you use more calories than you eat, whether you're eating less calories from dieting, or using more because of exercise.

Health-wise, it is better for you to exercise as well. It's always a good ideat o get your heart and body into shape.

Monday, June 04, 2007, 5:05 PM

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Exercise is about so much more than weight loss - heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol reduction, mood stabilization, strength, prevention of osteoporosis, etc, etc. It would be ridiculous to reject exercise just because someone says it isn't a major factor towards weight loss when it gives so many other benefits.

Monday, June 04, 2007, 5:58 PM

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