Just like many of us have an unhealthy relationship with food, the same can be said about exercise. I can't even count the number of times I've spoken to clients who profess their absolute hatred for the activity they're doing in the name of managing their weight. The thing is that exercise isn't something that you should force yourself to do in the name of calorie burning and weight loss! Movement has SO many benefits ranging from lowering blood pressure to improving your sleep but the weight loss effects are questionable so if you're focused on only weight loss, you might miss the other benefits of activity!
What this means for many people is that they focus on trying to lose weight when they're being active but if those results don't happen, they give up. Alternatively, they might think they need to exercise more and more and become obsessed with the number of calories they've burned in an effort to lose that weight. The first scenario leads to you losing out on the benefits of activity and the second can lead to injury and an unhealthy obsession with exercise that interferes with your life.
Before we get any further, I want to say that this post is NOT against movement and exercise. It is so important for our health and wellbeing to move our bodies but too often it gets used more like a punishment or purely a calorie burning tool instead of self-care. Too often, thoughts of "I had that extra piece of cake last night so I have to do an extra half hour at the gym" push us to work out instead of thinking about the positives of exercise like "I feel more energized when I take time to go for a walk." See where I'm going with this?
One of the factors that leads people down this path is that exercise is marketed for weight loss. The treadmill at the gym tells you how many calories you've burned and it is one of those things we all have in our heads- exercise= weight loss. The evidence for this idea isn't really there though: one of my favourite quotes for this is from Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity specialist in Ottawa:
There are many reasons why exercise isn't great for weight loss. They include the fact that we eat more when we think of activity for calorie burning rather than enjoyment (check out a great study here from Cornell University on the subject) and our bodies are great at compensation: when you start exercising more, you may eat more, burn less when exercising, or you may end up moving less when you're not exercising if you're pushing your body too far. This is because your body is actually very good at regulating itself! There is an excellent systematic review and meta-analysis on the subject (the highest grade evidence we have in research) that you can check it out here on the subject.
When we think about movement and exercise only in terms of calories, we often end up doing exercise we hate. I hear from people all the time that they're doing activity that they absolutely HATE because they think that activity will burn the most calories. Let's think about that for a second though, shall we? If you detest the activity that you're doing, and it likely doesn't lead to the weight loss you're hoping for, what are the chances that it becomes a sustainable habit? Pretty darn low.
To top that off, if you're exercising mostly for weight loss, you probably don't have adequate fuel from your diet for that activity making it that much more difficult! This is especially true for individuals on low carbohydrate diets, since carbs are essentially the gas in your gas tank- you wouldn't expect your car to go for miles with an empty tank of gas so why do you expect your body to be able to? You're essentially setting yourself up for failure.
Find an activity that you enjoy and focus on the benefits to your energy levels and health!
If you absolutely hate running on the treadmill, don't do it! Instead, why not go to a Zumba class with friends, go for a walk, try a new sport, or try yoga. Find an activity that feels good to you, whatever that may be. Then focus on how that activity makes you FEEL. Maybe you have more energy throughout the day, maybe you sleep better, feel stronger, feel less pain, or maybe if you have a condition like diabetes your blood sugars improve! Remember- exercise has so many benefits even if the number on the scale doesn't change- exercise to take care of yourself!