Technically, no. We’ve all heard the saying that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, and if you follow the latest obesity research many conclude that exercise is futile for weight loss. So should we even bother?

Weight loss, in itself, does have a lot to do with calories in and calories out, so simply reducing your calorie intake may be enough to make you lose weight. Pretty much any diet will work at first because most diets involve some form of calorie restriction. But the body is a very complex thing, so while calories do matter, they are not the only factor in weight loss.

Here are some reasons exercise is still important:

  1. Exercise helps you burn fat.
    Studies show that when you exercise hard enough to deplete your glycogen stores and then refill them by eating carbs afterwards, there is a tendency for these carbs (i.e., dietary glucose) to be stored as muscle glycogen rather than fat.  This is great news especially for those of us who equate “losing weight” with “losing inches.” It means we are building lean mass rather than storing fat.
  2. It improves blood sugar control.
    Exercise can help to limit the sugar spikes and crashes that many people go through when consuming a lot of carbs.  This can help to stave off sugar cravings (or carb cravings – same thing) which, if left unchecked over time, may lead to insulin resistance and a host of chronic diseases.
  3. Exercise reduces stress.
    Chronic stress can lead to inflammation and wreak all sorts of havoc on your hormones including the ones responsible for metabolism. Exercise is proven to reduce negative stress response (think binge-snacking, drowning your sorrows in a bucket of ice cream or at the bar) and releases those “happy hormones” or endorphins that boost your mood.

Exercise has also been shown to help improve sleep, and sleep is the time when fat loss occurs. Of course, it’s best to avoid exercising too close to bedtime or you may find yourself bouncing off the walls instead.

Be wary of “rewarding” yourself with unhealthy food after a workout because you feel you’ve earned it. Healthy eating AND exercise must go together. It’s not one or the other.