Exercise a Lot? Expect to Gain Weight

It was one of the worst days of my life.

Last week I learned that exercise may make you gain weight.  That's right.  I said, gain.  Not lose.

I had been wondering about that for a while, as, last summer, when I ramped up my exercise routine - running, swimming, doing the elliptical, all in the same day -- I began putting on the pounds.

I couldn't believe it.  Someone suggested I wasn't eating enough (yeah, right).  But I didn't start losing weight until I scaled back my exercise in the fall.

Now a new study is saying it wasn't all in my head.  (Or the scale.)  I was right.  Gretchen Reynolds writes at The New York Times that this provocative new study shows that a substantial number of people who take up an exercise regimen wind up heavier afterward than they were at the start, with the weight gain due mostly to extra fat, not muscle.

Say what?

A recent review of studies related to exercise and weight control found that in most of the studies, people lost barely a third as many pounds as would have been expected, given how many calories they were burning during workouts, she writes. Many studies also report enormous variations in how people’s waistlines respond to the same exercise program, with some people dropping pounds and others gaining fat.

"Scientists have had little understanding, however, of why exercise helps some people but not others to shed pounds or whether there might be early indications of how people will respond to an exercise routine," Reynolds reports.

A survey of women who did rigorous but manageable exercise for 12 weeks found that
the women were all significantly more aerobically fit than they had been at the start. But many were fatter. Almost 70 percent of the women had added at least some fat mass during the program, and several had gained as much as 10 pounds, most of which was from fat, not added muscle.

A few of the women, though, had lost that much fat or more, and quite a few had remained at the same weight as at the start of the regimen.

But looking deeper into their data, researchers discovered one interesting indicator: Those women who were losing weight after four weeks of exercise tended to continue to lose weight, while the others did not.

“What that means in practical terms is that someone who wants to lose weight with exercise” should step on the bathroom scale after a month, Reynolds quotes one of the study authors. If, at that point, the researcher says, your weight remains stubbornly unchanged or has increased, “look closely at your diet and other activities."

Big wow.  So that's it?

Those who gained weight began eating more and moving less when they weren’t on the treadmills, “probably without meaning to," the researcher added.

Now, I'm not one for weighing myself every day but that's what the study seemed to prove.  If you do that, and continue to exercise, you will lose weight, they say.  I guess it's all about keeping your mind on the goal.

The truly depressing fact of all this is that about 90% of us regain the weight.  I myself am a veteran of Weight Watchers, having reached my goal weight three different times.  And I'm back again.  Though this time I'm exercising less.




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