The benefits of exercise are well known but now one is being called into question – exercise’s ability to make you thin. If your only goal is to lose weight you might want to skip the gym visit. According to Time Magazine, in their cover story “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin,” exercise doesn’t make people thinner.

Louisiana State University diabetes and metabolism chair Eric Ravussin says bluntly that, “in general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless.” The reason?

He says, “The basic problem is that while it’s true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued.”

The article calls it the “compensation problem.” The argument basically says that people who exercise use the rational: I exercised for this amount of time so I will reward myself with a food treat. The calories they burned exercising are then eclipsed by the calories of the food they consume.

The article also quotes research that a pound of muscle burns about 6 calories a day and a pound of fat burns 2. After you’ve converted 10 lbs of fat to muscle you can only eat an extra 40 calories per fat before beginning to gain weight.

Many exercise, fitness and health experts say Time magazine got it wrong with their cover story. They look to most of the research out there that suggests both exercise and dieting are important elements for weight loss and that exercise is the most critical for weight maintenance. This research not shown in the Time magazine article shows that people who have maintained weight loss over a period of years rely on exercise to do so. Also, many have already come out to say that while some people do neutralize their calories burned by eating after a workout, most active people do not and if you want to lose weight you will have to stop treating yourself just because you walked on the treadmill for 20 minutes.

And though the article struck a nerve with its denial of exercise’s importance to weight loss, it did note the other benefits of exercise. People who regularly exercise are at a lower risk for diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other illnesses. While exercise might not exactly cure obesity, at least according to Time, it does make you healthier. Without a doubt doctors will still recommend exercise to everyone for the health benefits it provides.

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