Can you burn off fat by exercising? No. Can you lose weight by exercising? Yes. Can you gain weight by exercising? Yes. Can you become healthier through exercising? Yes. Can you cause health damage by exercising? Yes. Confused? Let me explain.
Benefits of exercise include: gaining strength, flexibility and energy; increasing basal metabolic rate, bone density, insulin sensitivity and tolerance to cold; and decreasing blood triglycerides, blood pressure and unhealthy visceral fat. In addition, you become more toned and, as the advertisers coyly put it, ‘transit time is improved’. Of course, there can be plenty of mental and social benefits too.
However, what if you are overweight? The UK government and States of Jersey still believe the myth that if you eat 3,500 calories less, or move enough, you will lose 1lb of fat. Despite there being no proof anywhere, they tell you if you eat less and exercise more, you will lose weight – you are then made to feel gluttonous or slothful (or both) if you don’t shed your excess fat. It’s enough to drive you to binge on chips and chocolate. In actual fact, if you don’t eat enough, your body will make you rest more – and if you exercise a lot, your body will make you eat more.
Nonetheless, exercise has many health benefits and indirectly helps you lose weight by changing your biochemistry. Should you exercise a lot, then? Probably not. Let’s assume you can find the time (and inclination) to work out for several hours a day in the gym and running the coastal paths: you’ll build muscle… but increase inflammation and wear and tear on your body.
Happily, there is a better answer! Short bursts of intense resistance exercise are just as effective for muscle toning and building, as is doing housework with vigour, climbing the steps from Portelet beach, kicking a ball around in the park and dancing as you sing. If you aren’t ambulatory, try out ‘foot bicycles’ for your legs and lungs and lifting water bottles for your arms and abs.
Many of these exercise benefits are counteracted by eating processed food, so as well as starting to move more for enjoyment and health, if you dump the junk and eat real food, then the sense of wellbeing and the muscle gain and fat loss will follow.
In short: should you ‘exercise’? Indubitably. Can you run off a bad diet? No.