INDIANAPOLIS – Leading experts in exercise and weight management have taken strong exception to assertions that exercise can inhibit weight loss by over-stimulating the appetite.
According to John Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM, “There is strong evidence from the majority of the scientific literature that physical activity is an important component for initial weight loss.”
Responding to a statement recently published online and in print, Jakicic added that “The statement ‘in general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless’ is not supported by the scientific evidence when there is adherence to a sufficient dose of physical activity in overweight and obese adults.” Jakicic chairs a committee on obesity prevention and treatment for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and helped write an ACSM Position Stand on strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults.
According to Jakicic and other experts, overwhelming evidence belies the assertion that exercise doesn’t necessarily help people lose weight and may even make the task harder.
“Again, it is clear in this regard that physical activity is one of the most important behavioral factors in enhancing weight loss maintenance and improving long-term weight loss outcomes,” Jakicic said. In fact, his own research, published in 2008, showed a high dose of physical activity ( 275 minutes above baseline levels) contributed to the greatest observed weight loss after a 24-month intervention. He noted that the scientific literature includes additional evidence to support physical activity, adding that a growing body of literature suggests the importance of physical activity to improve long-term weight loss following bariatric surgery.
Another noted expert and ACSM member, Timothy Church, M.D., Ph.D., described how his professional opinions were misrepresented in a recent news article. According to Church, the article should have touched on the following key concepts:
- Weight maintenance is different from weight loss, and should have been discussed. Virtually all people who lose weight and keep it off are exercising to maintain weight.
- Comments about children and physical activity were misleading. Studies have shown that kids are not necessarily more active after school (and therefore need good in-school physical education program), and that the focus with children should be on physical activity and prevention of excess weight gain. (Adults, however, more often must deal with losing excess weight.)
- Exercise and diet go together. Weight management is most successful when careful attention is given to both physical activity and proper nutrition.
Janet Rankin, Ph.D., FACSM, an expert in nutrition and exercise, supplemented the bountiful scientific evidence with a simple observation: “A practical response to the claim that exercise makes you eat more and gain weight is to look around. If this were the case, wouldn’t those who regularly exercise be the fattest? Obviously that isn’t the case.”
ACSM experts stressed that, particularly when so many struggle with the health consequences of overweight and obesity, it is important that Americans have accurate information based on science and evidence.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.