Why Exercise is Not Effective for Weight Loss

There are a lot of important reasons why you should exercise…

It builds strong bones and muscles, which help to ensure that you stay active and able for many years to come. It can also dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. It can lift your mood and alleviate depression. It can even improve memory and thinking and cause new brain cells to form.

But exercise is probably not going to help you lose weight…

This may sound counterintuitive. After all, the first thing most people do when they decide to “lose weight” is start an exercise routine. But studies clearly show that exercise is not the key to weight loss. In fact, many people who start an exercise program actually gain weight. We have been making this point for a while.

Now, two new studies confirm what we have been telling you about exercise and weight loss.

Anthropologists from Hunter College in New York performed the first study.1 They wanted to compare the level of physical activity of a traditional, active culture to that of Americans. To perform this research, they traveled all the way to Africa to study the Hadza tribe. The Hadza live on the Serengeti Plateau in Tanzania. They are the last full-time hunter-gatherers in Africa – and among the last in the world.

The anthropologists fit each of their subjects with GPS devices. This allowed them to precisely measure how many miles the Hadza walk each day.

They also had the subjects consume water with harmless molecular “tracers” inserted. These tracers show up in the subjects’ urine. Measuring their levels allowed the researchers to determine each subject’s energy expenditure and metabolic rate.

They followed members of the tribe for 11 days. During that time, they measured physical activity, energy expenditure and resting metabolic rates. Then the researchers compared those numbers with the same measures for an average American male and female.

They discovered that the Hadza move considerably more than most of us. The Hadza men walk about seven miles a day. The women walk about three miles. But here’s the most surprising part.

They did not burn many more calories.

When the calculations were tallied, the team concluded that, “The average daily energy expenditure of traditional Hadza foragers was no different than that of Westerners after controlling for body size.”

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Most people believe humans today are overweight compared to our hunter-gatherer ancestors because we aren’t as active as we used to be.

But this study confirms that our hunter-gatherer ancestors probably had a very similar metabolic rate as we do today. And they exerted a similar amount of energy in a given day.

Nor has our level of activity declined that much in the “information age.” Fewer numbers of us do labor-intensive work than we did in the past. But the numbers of people who have gym memberships and participate in workout programs are near all-time highs.

The real reason why so many people are overweight today has little to do with our level of physical activity. It has a lot more to do with what (and how much) we eat. If you focus on exercise alone, you might even gain weight.

A recent review published by the International Association for the Study of Obesity2 proves the point. It also illustrates why this is so often true. This report featured a systematic review of studies related to exercise and weight loss.

The researchers began by acknowledging that most exercise interventions fail to deliver anything but modest weight loss. So, what conclusion did they draw from their careful scrutiny of dozens of studies?

Here is what they state, in their own words:

“We conclude that the small magnitude of weight loss observed from the majority of evaluated exercise interventions is primarily due to low doses of prescribed exercise energy expenditures compounded by a concomitant increase in caloric intake.”


Let us put that in plain English. It means the results of most exercise programs are negated by consuming too many calories. Studies show that people who exercise more tend to eat more.

And this is especially the case where long-duration cardio exercise is concerned. Yes, it does burn calories. But it can also make you ravenously hungry. And it also makes many people feel as if they are entitled to make bad food choices. “I worked out today… I deserve this!”

But it is much easier to consume calories than it is to burn them off…

For example, a Big Mac, large fries and a large Coke at McDonald’s is 1,360 calories.3 It would take the average person about 15 minutes to consume that meal. But the average man would have to run for more than two hours to burn those calories off. The average woman would need to run for nearly three hours to expend that amount of energy.

Exercise is part of the weight-loss equation. But your diet is a far more important factor. It is what you eat – not how hard you try to work it off – that matters.

Dr. Timothy Church was one of the lead researchers who reviewed the exercise studies in the recently published report. He summed it up well when he stated, that “It’s easier to lose weight by dieting than by exercise.”

We don’t believe in “dieting,” however. Eating healthfully is enjoyable. It is delicious. And it doesn’t require sacrifice or denial. In other words, it is not about a diet. It is about creating a lifestyle that you can easily sustain for a lifetime.

If you want improve your health and reach your optimal weight, focus on a diet that is rich in protein and healthy fats. These foods will keep you full and satisfied for longer. They stimulate muscle growth. And they do very little to boost blood sugar and insulin (the fat storage hormone). Your carbs should come from low-glycemic sources like whole fruits, berries and vegetables.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t exercise. You should. It offers amazing benefits for your health and fitness. It can improve your mood and increase your confidence. And yes, it can definitely help you look better naked. But it will all be for naught if you don’t consume the right foods in the right amounts.

Ed Note: Our research team has uncovered a group of little-known studies – including a research report out of Harvard University – that turn everything we know about weight loss on its head. No fad diets or diet drinks or calorie counting. No obsessive exercise. We’ve prepared a special video bulletin all about this game-changing research. If you’ve ever struggled with losing weight I urge you to watch it immediately. This information could be exactly what you need to change your life forever.


Large Big Mac Meal=1,360 calories. 15 minutes to eat and average man running 2+ hours to burn. Click to Tweet

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Health Topic: Diet and Nutrition | Fitness and Exercise | Weight Loss


  1. Alexis says:

    Every weight loss article I read seems to be saying different things. And I sometimes get very frustrated with things that imply people have a weight problem because they are eating Big Macs and fries. I am slightly overweight and it doesn’t matter what I do – nothing budges. I eat a very clean, natural healthy diet. I never drink soda or eat fries or fast food and even if I keep calories at about 1400 I don’t lose an ounce. I’m sure some people lose when they give up the things you mention but some of us are already doing everything right and still battle. If exercise doesn’t work and we aren’t supposed to diet and we are already eating a healthy diet (and believe me I’ve read everything on earth about what a healthy diet is – they can’t completely agree on that either) – then what are we supposed to do. Lately I go to bed slightly hungry and nothing changes. But if I eat where I’m never hungry nothing changes either.

  2. eric taylor says:

    I have not tried any of Oprah’s diets, but I have lost a
    few pounds by consuming coconut milk, and eating raspberries
    from my garden. The ketones in the coconut oil & raspberries
    speed up the metabolism for 8-12 hours. I personally find
    that it’s not good to eat large portions of carbohydrates
    and proteins together, and I try to only eat whole grains,
    with an emphasis on non glutinous grains, although I may
    stray from that discipline. The total calories are definitely
    the key, I agree, but some foods are clearly superior
    for micro-nutrients that satisfy hunger better than fad diets.

  3. Tom says:

    If your “healthy diet” includes wheat, this will sabotage your fat loss efforts. There is no such thing as a healthy whole grain, but wheat is especially harmful. See the book “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD.

  4. Betty Gaw, M.D. says:

    The longer we live, the more we are exposed to chemicals that block THYROID functions. These Halogens, Chlorine, Bromine, Fluorine are every where, contributing to Hypothyroid disease, manifesting as obesity, low energy, brain fog, cold hands and feet, dry puffy skin and brittle hair, low libido, and low metabolism, etc.
    Ask your physician to do the thyroid panel tests, not only the TSH which is customarily done, but cannot nail the diagnosis. Must include the T4 and T3, and be sure they are in the UPPER normal range. Get treated if your T3 and T4 are low, and watch your symptoms disappear. Thyroid is very important for metabolism and health, for it protects the Brain, Heart, Skin, and every organ of the body.—BCG

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