Benefits of Exercise for Weight Loss

Today, Longevity Exercise Physiology Drummoyne, EdgecliffMarrickvilleBella VistaRandwickPymbleand Balmain look at the truth regarding exercise in weight management so that you are equipped with the best knowledge for your health.

One of the most prevailing and advertised messages in today’s society is that exercise equates to weight loss. As long as you hop on that treadmill or bike, you’ll lose weight. Go join a gym and you can lose those kilos. As long as you get your steps in, you’ll burn off those calories. We hear it from the media, celebrities, ads and even health practitioners alike. It can definitely be quite confusing then, when someone has been exercising, but they don’t see any changes to their weight at all.

First of all, we cannot deny that exercise has a role to play in weight loss. By default, you are using energy during exercise; weight loss is achieved by having higher energy expenditure than energy intake so if you increase your energy expenditure through exercise, you will have a better chance of losing weight. However, the problem lies with how big of a role we think exercise has on weight loss. The truth is that it’s hard to create big enough of a caloric deficit through exercise alone to lead to  weight loss. In fact, research shows that while 100% of our energy comes from food, we can only burn 10-30% of it with physical activity each day. This problem is compounded by other issues such as: 1) overweight or obese populations having co-morbidities (e.g. arthritis, back pain) that makes exercise volume and intensity more difficult to achieve 2) medications that cause side effects (e.g. blood pressure drugs, antidepressants, antipsychotics) and 3) other chronic health conditions that predispose one to weight gain (e.g. hypothyroidism, depression, Cushing’s syndrome). Overall, there have been multiple reviews of research studies that show that exercise alone only elicits modest reductions in weight 1,2,3 , and that all these reductions are much less than expected. Ultimately, evidence suggests that diet plays the biggest role when it comes to influencing one’s weight4.

However, all of this is missing a significant part of the health picture. Instead of focusing on weight loss, people should really be focusing on fat loss, since high fat mass is directly linked with conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and a higher risk of mortality. Our weight is made of 3 main components: fat, muscle and bone. We want to minimise body fat, while maximising muscle and bone mass, which are important for reducing chronic health conditions, injuries and improving physical function. Now what’s the best way to improve or maintain your muscle and bone mass? You guessed it: exercise.

While research suggests diet is ultimate factor in losing weight, exercise truly shines through its key role in preserving muscle and bone mass when weight loss occurs. Evidence shows that when people tend lose weight in general, a quarter of it is muscle mass5, which is why it is especially important to not only diet, but exercise at the same time. The number on the scale may not look as impressive, but it is the key to improving your body composition and your long-term health in the best possible way. In fact, it will be far more useful to obtain measures such as waist circumference and body fat percentage, as these will give an accurate representation of fat, as opposed to general weight.

Yet, this is all still just scraping the tip of the iceberg in terms of the benefits of exercise outside of pure weight loss, or body composition for that matter. Outside of these, exercise has outstanding benefits for people of any age, experience or condition; these include, but are not limited to:

– Improving cardiovascular health to prevent conditions such as heart disease
– Improve bone density to prevent conditions such as osteopenia and osteoporosis
– Improving muscle strength and mass to prevent injuries, atrophy and dysfunction
– Improving blood pressure to prevent
– Improving immune system
– Reduce stress and anxiety
– Increase metabolism
– Improving mental health to prevent conditions such as depression
– Improving self-confidence
– Improving sleep quality
– Improved mood
– Increasing energy
– Improving cognitive functioning, learning and memory
– Improving digestion
– Reducing disease risk



Need more reasons to exercise? There are many more benefits to exercise beyond these and there will be more specific ones depending on your condition or needs. However, it has been certainly evident that society’s messages about exercise and weight loss are not giving us the full picture. Here at Longevity, we have a big focus on disrupting the pop science out there and giving everyone the scientific truth. To find out what specific benefits YOU will see from exercise for your health conditions, give us a call on 1300 964 002.

Written by Jackie Cheung


  1. Ross, R., & Janssen, I. (2001). Physical activity, total and regional obesity: dose-response considerations. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 33(6 Suppl), S521–S529.
  2. Wing R. R. (1999). Physical activity in the treatment of the adulthood overweight and obesity: current evidence and research issues. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(11 Suppl), S547–S552.
  3. Church TS, Martin CK, Thompson AM, Earnest CP, Mikus CR, Blair SN. Changes in weight, waist circumference and compensatory responses with different doses of exercise among sedentary, overweight postmenopausal women. PLoS One. 2009;4(2):e4515.
  4. Schwingshackl, L., Dias, S., & Hoffmann, G. (2014). Impact of long-term lifestyle programmes on weight loss and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight/obese participants: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Systematic reviews, 3, 130.
  5. Heymsfield, S. B., Gonzalez, M. C., Shen, W., Redman, L., & Thomas, D. (2014). Weight loss composition is one-fourth fat-free mass: a critical review and critique of this widely cited rule. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 15(4), 310–321.


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