Each January, gyms nationwide crowd with people hoping to transform themselves in their new year, or trying to follow resolutions to exercise more often.
The trouble is, more and more research is proving that exercise is one of the least effective ways to lose weight.
If you know a little about nutrition, that sounds untrue: our bodies absorb calories from the food we eat, and exercise burns calories. So why wouldn’t exercise help you shed pounds?
For one thing, our bodies don’t work so simply. You might be surprised to learn that most of the calories you burn in a day are from your resting metabolism, as in just to keep you awake, breathing, and moving around.
Digesting food burns calories as well, and of course so does physical activity like exercise. But even dramatic changes to your levels of exercise are just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the total calories you burn in a day.
What’s even worse, dramatically increasing the amount of exercise you do each day can slow down your resting metabolism, as your body tries to store as much energy as possible. This change, which you have next to no control over, basically counteracts whatever extra work you put in.
Multiple studies of exercise also found that very active people work off much less calories than you would expect, either because they gorge on food after a workout or spend more time relaxing to recoup their energy.
A study published in the journal Diabetes found that result with mice given a running wheel. The rodents might exercise more - like gym rats on January 1st - but they would spend more time chilling out afterwards and balance out their burst of exercise.
So what’s the solution? If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, focus on following a healthy diet instead of working yourself silly.
By all means, keep exercising, because it will help your body in all kinds of other ways. But when it comes to weight loss, making healthy choices at the dinner table is worth more than spending time in the gym.
Dr. Kevin Hall, a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health, even suggested we need to "rebrand" exercise to better understand why it’s good for us.
"Exercise isn’t a weight loss tool, per se," he told Vox. "It’s excellent for health, it’s probably the best single thing you can do other than stopping smoking, to improve your health. But don’t look at it as a weight loss tool.
So take that as an expert-approved excuse to skip the gym today. Just remember to eat healthy, and get some rest, because that's another way to help your body slim down.