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More Exercise Is Not The Answer

by | May 5, 2021 | Blog Archive

Physical activity is only one component of reaching your health or fat loss goals, and it might surprise you to learn that it contributes the least  when it comes to your daily weight loss efforts.

For years we have been sent the message by the fitness industry to do more, be more committed and work harder.

Now we are living in a time where people are working longer hours, sitting more and experiencing higher levels of stress – simply telling them to do more exercise can in fact create more problems than it solves.

I used to run up to 50km per week spending hours away from my family trying to manage my weight, and even though I reached my “goal weight” I was dissatisfied with my body.

Throwing more physical activity at your problem doesn’t resolve the issue long term.  It can lead to increased stress, burnout, worst case scenario injury and illness, and in most cases ultimately lead to people giving up on it altogether.

This is definitely not what I want to see personally.

This is why I became a certified nutritionist, in addition to my fitness qualifications, because I could see that just getting people to exercise more doesn’t help MOST people.

The thing is, you can be physically active and have high levels of body fat, which will not support long term health outcomes. You can also be a small build, with a high body fat % and be inactive, which could also lead to negative health consequences.

Take my community for example.  If you ask people how they spend their weekends, they’ll tell you that participating in sport as their choice of physical activity is very high on their priority list, particularly team sports.  People here give up hundreds of hours participating and volunteering to keep the clubs running which is fantastic.  Parents spend hours and cover thousands of km’s every year supporting their kids sporting pursuits.

And yet our health outcomes as a region are dismal and paint a grim picture for the future.  Why?  Because there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the lifestyle factors that impact weight management the most.

I personally shied away from the local sports culture as a child, and later fitness culture in my early adult years as I couldn’t identify with the competitive nature and intensity of either of them.   I get that some people thrive on that, but not everyone does, and it’s not the only way to get healthy.

With the advent of social media influencers we now routinely see extreme versions of fitness online – incredibly lean physiques and amazing fitness feats that leave the average office worker or shift worker despairing that they can’t be like that so why bother trying.  They have to work too much anyway.

It might look good on socials, but it’s counterproductive for advancing the health of Australians as a population, having a tendency to exclude people who don’t identify as gym bunnies, commandos or marathon runners.

No, exercise isn’t pointless, and you should absolutely have a goal to be physically active.  But it’s not doing what you think it is for your fat loss. (Even if you got results that way).

You might be able to sustain high levels of physical activity to get results at particular times in your life, but it likely won’t always be the case.

So what is the answer if you want to improve your health and body composition long term?  If you’re sick of overcommitting yourself to gruelling workout schedules you can’t stick to, and restrictive diets?

Learning how to harness the power of your daily habits is the only way to get results and keep them long term.

You should work out because you enjoy it.  Not to punish yourself or keep chasing a calorie deficit the hard way.

I prefer my clients to approach their workouts as training for strength and fitness, and approaching fat loss goals using more effective tools by looking at their lifestyle habits on an individual basis.

Here’s the order of priority of 3 key habits to focus on when getting started on fat loss:

  1. Incidental movement.  You might measure this in steps, or just put strategies in place to move more throughout the day.  Please don’t go for 10km walks daily to “get your steps up”, that’s planned exercise and will probably increase your appetite, or leave you exhausted.
  2. Food selection – keeping a food log and aiming to incorporate lean sources of protein and a variety of fruit and vegetables in most meals each day and week.  This helps to support recovery from training, appetite management when in a calorie deficit and health, to name a few benefits.  Carbohydrate intake can be adapted to personal preferences and lifestyle.
  3. Hydration – how much water do you really drink each day?  Start tracking it, and increase it.  When you are dehydrated, not only do you feel tired and suffer when working out, but you are more likely to reach for high calorie snacks to try to perk up.  Yeah, you may wee a bit more at first, but you’ll adjust to this and you’ll feel amazing – trust me!

After addressing the basics above we can then start to strategise more advanced strength training plans, and diet periodisation, to name a couple of my favourite strategies.

For far too long we’ve been told to do it back to front.  It’s time to take a fresh approach.

I teach my clients how to get results and keep them in less time per week so they can get on with enjoying the other important things in life like family, friends and whatever else they enjoy doing.

If you’d like to learn more, subscribe to my emails or check out the blog at Fitaf.com.au, where you can also message me to find out about in person and online coaching packages. I’d love to hear from you!

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