Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Do less exercise, lose more weight: Is it really that easy?

Stock photo/Thinkstock

In the world of weight loss and exercise, the age-old adage states that if you don't feel pain, you won't see a gain. In other words, losing weight means work. Hard work.

However, a new study is questioning that truism and highlighting the fact many of us may be unwittingly sabotaging our efforts.

The study, by researchers at the University of Copenhagen, found that moderate amounts of exercise may actually lead to greater weight loss.

Story continues below advertisement

Sound surprising?

The researchers followed 61 sedentary, moderately overweight men who were divided into three groups: one that remained sedentary, one that exercised roughly 30 minutes a day, and one that exercised for approximately an hour a day. The researchers told participants to maintain the same diet and monitored their consumption through food diaries.

At the end of 13 weeks, the men who exercised only 30 minutes a day lost the most weight. They shed about seven pounds, on average. The intense exercisers (an hour a day) only lost an average of five pounds each, far less than the researchers anticipated.

The sedentary group didn't lose any weight. (Sorry, weight loss isn't that easy.)

Do the results mean that it's pointless to start a high-intensity exercise program? Definitely not.

While the moderate exercisers lost the most weight, the explanation likely lies in how much that group was eating. Countless studies have demonstrated that many people who take up an exercise regimen feel like they can compensate by eating more. And sure, exercise can work up an appetite. But if you're simply replacing the calories you burn with more food, you won't lose weight. It's as simple as that.

But it's also worth noting the study clearly demonstrated that any physical activity is a good thing and that sitting on the couch isn't doing your waistline – or your health – any favours.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

Comments

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at privacy@globeandmail.com.