Amid The Mixed Messages, Exercise Is Still Great For You

Written by Alexandra Black MPH, RD, LDN, Health Promotion Manager, IHRSA

It can sometimes feel as though every other week there is a new “controversy” in the health and wellness world. Is running good for you, or will it increase the risk of joint injury? Is fat heart healthy or cancer causing? Does exercise help you lose weight or no?  But while challenging conventional wisdom in a headline and article can make for more clicks, this kind of mixed messaging can confuse – and maybe even harm – consumers.

Recently there have been several headlines suggesting that exercise is not as important for weight loss as once thought. Sometimes the headline even advises readers to “stop exercising” because it is not helping them lose weight. This is largely, technically, true – most of short-term weight loss success is attributable to improved diet rather than increased exercise. Many studies on the topic show that diet or diet in combination with exercise are more effective than exercise alone, and many experts would tell you that weight loss is 90% nutrition and 10% exercise. And the exercise doesn’t even have to be vigorous, challenging exercise. It can be walking around the block for 30 minutes a day. In many studies, it’s 3-4 hours a week of aerobic and resistance exercise.

But, as IHRSA CEO Joe Moore pointed out in a recent Huffington Post article, valuing exercise only for its impact on weight loss is ignoring a much, much bigger picture of overall health. Exercise may or may not do much to help you go from a size 12 to a size eight in six months, but it may be what keeps you a size eight for ten years. In addition, studies have time and again demonstrated the beneficial impact of physical activity on blood glucose levels, insulin resistance, blood pressure, mood, and sleep. There are also a number of studies linking exercise with improved health related quality of life.

Exercise not only makes you healthier, it makes you feel better. With all those benefits, why would anyone advise against exercise just because it won’t help you lost weight in the short term?