Why Exercise Alone is Not Enough To Loose Weight

In high school I played lacrosse. We were a small varsity team and did a handful of stereotypical team bonding sleep overs, etc, etc. I never forget going to one of the team captain’s luxurious home my junior…. As we decorate team shirts I remember Brittany (the team captain) telling us how she used to be a lot bigger the summer before. This sounded insane to me. Brittany was a short slender frame. How was that possible? Well, Brittany told me about her special of running 8 miles a day. She claimed that she could eat whatever she wanted as long as she ran 8 miles that day.

And thus the myth about exercising alone to loose weight was born in my mind.

I’ve actually heard this a lot from my clients. They don’t want to change their eating habits and simply want to exercise about 30 minutes a day to create a calorie deficient. And although this theory does go along with the idea of calories in/ calories out, exercise alone generally is insufficient for successful weight loss for most people, especially for newbies.


The problem with exclusively relaying on exercise as the only means to weight loss, is very unrealistic. Even if you are at the gym, working hard for 60 minutes every day it will not counter act the remaining 23 hours if you sit for work, sit on your commute and unwind from the day by sitting and watching Netflix. Instead I tell my clients to keep exercising at the gym AND be more active throughout the rest of their day as well if they want to get weight loss results.


Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (or NEAT) is your basic daily movements such as standing, walking to the restroom, taking the stairs, really any moving around. According NASM Weight Loss Specialization manual, NEAT “appears to be equally important as exercise in burning calories (and) losing weight.”


Let’s take a look at a dedicated lawyer attends a 30 min HIIT class 3 to 4 times a week at his local gym but then sits in his car on his long commute to work, sits for the majority of his 8 hour day, drives to a restaurant after work for dinner and sits for another hour and a half and then proceeds to sit and watch TV before he goes to bed. Now lets compare our laywer friend to a waiter. The waiter does not workout out. However, the waiter bikes 10 minutes to work every day, is constantly on his feet and moving from table to table, bikes home after work and prepares and cooks his dinner while standing his kitchen. Chances are the waiter will burn more calories throughout his day compare to our gym-going-lawyer-friend.

Some of you might be wondering about the EPOC effect. Aren’t you supposed to burn calories after your workout even while sitting at your desk?In truth, EPOC generates about 7-10% of the total energy used in an exercise session. It is important not to dismiss this because every calorie counts in weight loss, but sometimes we over estimate the intensity and amount of calories we burn in a single exercise session.

So how do we get more NEAT in our lives? I tell me clients that in addition to working out together I highly recommend them getting a pedometer. It doesn’t have to be a FitBit or anything fancy. You can purchase relatively cheap pedometers for about $20-$30 on Amazon. Getting 10,000 steps a day for 7 days a week typically equals a 1 pound of weight loss (as long as you are eating mindful portions).

Don’t get upset at the gym or your trainer if you are not getting the results you want solely from working out. Keep going to the gym AND try to incorporate more movement in your life. Take the stairs more, use breaks at work to walk on a treadmill or walk with a friend, try to stand rather than sit, GET THOSE 10,000 STEPS! These small changes will add up to small healthy victories.

If you are interested in a more holistic approach to personal training and changing your life with lasting results, please contact through my website and book your first free consultation today!