10:09pm Thursday 20 February 2020

Stritch School of Medicine research finds that exercise alone does not help weight loss

While the preponderance of research has found that exercise is not effective for weight control, these findings generally have not been communicated to the general public. “This crucial part of the public health message is not appreciated in recommendations to be more active, walk up stairs, and eat more fruits and vegetables,” Cooper and Luke said. “The prescription needs to be precise: there is only one effective way to lose weight – eat fewer calories.”

While physical activity is crucially important for improving overall health and fitness levels, there is limited evidence to suggest that it can blunt the surge in obesity, Cooper and Luke wrote in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

If activity increases, appetite also increases and you compensate by eating more food, Cooper and Luke said. Regardless of increasing physical activity, calorie control remains key to losing and maintaining weight.

The food and beverage industry has tried to divert attention from calorie consumption by promoting the theory that lack of physical exercise is a major cause of obesity. But in the International Journal of Epidemiology paper, which was published in 2013, Cooper and Luke detail the evidence that physical activity is not key to losing weight. Here are some examples:

  • It’s often argued that low obesity rates in Africa, India, and China are due in part to strenuous daily work routines, but evidence does not support this notion. For example, African Americans tend to weigh more than Nigerians. Studies by Luke and colleagues found that when corrected for body size, Nigerians do not burn more calories through physical activity than African Americans.
  • Numerous clinical trials have found that exercise plus calorie restriction achieves virtually the same weight loss as calorie restriction alone.
  • Observational studies show no association between energy expenditure and subsequent weight change.
  • Extremely small proportions of the US population engage in levels of energy expenditure at a sufficiently high level to affect long-term energy balance.


About Loyola University Chicago

Founded in 1870, Loyola University Chicago is one of the nation’s largest Jesuit, Catholic universities, with nearly 16,000 students. Nearly 10,000 undergraduates hailing from all 50 states and 82 countries call Loyola home. The University has four campuses: three in the greater Chicago area and one in Rome, Italy, as well as course locations in Beijing, China; Saigon-Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Vernon Hills, Illinois (Cuneo Mansion and Gardens); and a Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, Illinois. The University features 11 schools and colleges, including the Quinlan School of Business, Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Stritch School of Medicine, College of Arts and Sciences, School of Communication, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, School of Education, School of Law, School of Social Work, Graduate School, and Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago. Consistently ranked a top national university by U.S. News & World Report, Loyola is also among a select group of universities recognized for community service and engagement by prestigious national organizations like the Carnegie Foundation and the Corporation for National and Community Service. To learn more about Loyola, visit LUC.edu, “like” us at Facebook.com/LoyolaChicago, or follow us on Twitter via @LoyolaChicago or @LoyolaNewsroom.

About Loyola’s Health Sciences Division

The Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division advances interprofessional, multidisciplinary, and transformative education and research while promoting service to others through stewardship of scientific knowledge and preparation of tomorrow’s leaders. Located on the Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, Illinois, the division includes the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, Stritch School of Medicine, biomedical research programs of The Graduate School, and several research institutes and centers. For more information, visit LUC.edu/hsd.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System is part of Trinity Health, a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 84 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 89,000 employees.

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