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Weight Loss

From the effects of the hormone cortisol to the role of genetics in weight loss, this category is packed with everything that you need to know about losing weight the healthy way.

8 Common Misconceptions About Exercise and Weight Loss

Exercise is important for overall health, but it is definitely not the end all be all for weight loss. Learn the 8 misconceptions about exercise and its tie to weight loss here.

8 Common Misconceptions About Exercise and Weight Loss

Exercise is important for overall health, but it is definitely not the end-all-be-all for weight loss. In fact, many studies have shown participants can lose weight independent of engaging in exercise and sometimes, even more so. 

The fastest way to burn calories might reside within the gym and on the roads. But, the fastest does not always equate to the best!

Exercising but not losing weight? Learn the 8 misconceptions about exercise and its tie to weight loss. (Oh, and how to lose weight without exercise!)

You Never Need a Rest Day

The Truth: A major mistake many people make is never taking a rest day. Diet culture and the media have implanted the notion that going balls to the walls every single day is the best way to lose weight and hit those lofty goals.

However, the actual execution of this often backfires, wreaking havoc on stress and reproductive hormones and even leading to weight gain. Taking at least 1 to 3 rest days per week allows time for the body to repair and grow and the mind to recharge. 

Top athletes swear by rest days, exclaiming it is a major motivation booster and permits them to always give their best in subsequent training sessions and competitions. 

No Pain, No Gain

The Truth: Similarly, every workout does not need to elicit lactic acid muscles and knock-the-wind-out-of-you nausea. Some of the most effective workouts are simple and not sweaty, including certain forms of yoga, pilates, and martial arts. 

Indeed, these remarkably mindful ways of moving can produce a fastidious mind-muscle connection that fares better than the sweatiest of workouts. Feeling overly sore day after day doesn’t make for great training workouts and can overly tax the body. 

Once again, this can lead to hormone imbalance, burnout, and an increased risk of injury. A mixture of high intensity and lower intensity workouts with sufficient rest days is a winning exercise formula.

Cardio Is the Best Kind of Exercise to Lose Weight

The Truth: Various forms of cardio like running, swimming, and jump roping for an hour can burn 600 to 1000 calories when one first starts. However, over time, the body becomes more efficient, thus, burning fewer calories in the same amount of time. Plus, doing endless cardio is one of the quickest forms of burnout, for the body and mind.

Conversely, regularly incorporating strength training builds and preserves muscle mass (whereas too much cardio breaks it down), leading to a higher metabolism at rest and ultimately more calories burned. 

You Need to Workout For At Least an Hour Every Day

The Truth: In short, absolutely not! Many effective workouts can clock in at 15 to 20 minutes or so. Rather than focusing on total workout time, focus on intensity, effort, and mind-muscle connection.

Focusing on the above factors is why short HIIT workouts are proven to be as or more powerful than low-intensity steady-state cardio sessions. These quick, heart-pumping workouts elicit EPOC, known as exercise post oxygen consumption. And the higher the EPOC, the more burned calories throughout the rest of the day. 

You Have to Sweat Pools to Lose Weight

The Truth: Although it seems like more sweat equates to more weight loss, this is skewed. This concept is closely linked to the premises of the prior three misconceptions. 

While a super sweaty workout may lead to a lower number on the scale, the loss is water not fat. One can expect the scale to rise again after replenishing hydration and electrolytes. On the other hand, sweating is quite conducive for detoxing, which can aid in more weight loss, but the loss of sweat does not equal loss of weight.

You Can Spot Reduce Fat with Exercise

The Truth: A major misconception, even amongst athletic communities, it is very difficult if not impossible to lose weight in a specific area through exercise. Genetics and diet largely prevent or at least affect this. Some gain and lose weight and muscle mass in certain areas easier than others and one's diet especially impacts physique.

In general, exercise builds the muscle that is only externally visible with proper nutrition and specific genes for that matter. This is especially true within the body-building community. Even if all contenders followed the same exercise regimen and nutrition plan, they would still all appear different. 

In the end, fat reduction and building muscle are highly individualized. No amount of crunches can lead to a flat stomach, particularly without specialized nutrition.

It Is Best to Stick to One Workout Style

The Truth: At certain times this rings true. Like when training for a marathon or body-building competition. These sports require very specific, targeted programming that entails one kind of training.

However, for the average athlete, a mixture of low-intensity cardio, HIIT, strength training, stretching, and joyful movement tends to elicit the best overall results. Very specific exercise (like training for a marathon) greatly increases the risk of injury and mental burnout. Keep the body guessing for the highest metabolism.

Exercise Is the Best Way to Lose Weight

The Truth: In fact, exercise is not the best way to lose weight according to what the research shows. Exercise is undoubtedly an effective weight management tool known to also elicit health benefits, even independent of weight loss. 

Focusing on cellular and metabolic health through a variety of lifestyle methods and modalities reaps the best, most sustainable weight loss. 

How to Lose Weight Without Exercise

Again, exercise can certainly aid weight loss and is very important to include in an overall healthy lifestyle. But, experimenting without it can be illuminating. 

Focusing on the following factors without exercising can also lead to meaningful weight loss.

Focus on Nutrient Density of Foods

Consuming mostly whole foods with minimal ingredients most of the time is the best way to support weight loss and health. Nutrient-dense foods positively affect cells and allow them to function optimally. In turn, high-functioning cells maintain proper bodily functions, including healthy weight maintenance.

Hippocrates once said, "Let food be thy medicine" or, perhaps, revised to say "Let nutritious food be thy medicine."

Moderation and Portion Control

Next in line, consuming appropriate portions of all foods is essential, especially for weight loss. While the calories in, calories out is not the ultimate tactic, it still holds high merit. 

Eating enough to support a functioning metabolism, but not overeating to where the body stores extra calories as fat, is key. The following portion sizes are generally appropriate, but working with a dietitian can produce the most individualized recommendations and results.

• Starches: 1/2 cup
• Healthy fat: 1 to 2 Tbsp
• Fruits: 3/4 to 1 cup or 1 fruit
• Vegetables: 1 cup
• Protein: 3 to 6 oz or the surface area and thickness of your palm
• Dairy: 1/2 to 1 cup

Overall, eating in this sort of fashion naturally helps control the number of calories in the diet. It also helps alleviate stress tied to counting calories. 

Prioritize Sleep and Hydration

Two of the most underrated weight loss methods, getting enough sleep and water can make a giant difference with weight loss. Humans require 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night to maintain energy levels and metabolic function and allow the body to sufficiently repair and recharge. 

Furthermore, lack of sleep wacks with hormones, especially hunger and fullness ones, so it is also vital for regulation.

Finally, staying adequately hydrated also ensures proper hormone regulation and cellular function as well. Conversely, dehydration starves cells of their power, makes it harder to distinguish hunger and appetite, and depletes energy levels. (This is a disastrous weight loss recipe!)

The Final Word

Endless exercise without weight loss results can be an indicator that it is time to try a different tactic. Taking a break from exercise routines and focusing on fueling and treating the body well with other lifestyle factors may be what the (metabolic) doc is ordering. 

Now, next time one spews exercise misconceptions, you can kindly educate otherwise!


Killoran E. 7 Exercise Myths That Can Derail Your Weight-Loss Goals: Pritikin. Pritikin Weight Loss Resort. Published January 15,

Reynolds G. Why So Many of Us Don't Lose Weight When We Exercise. The New York Times. Published July 3, 2019.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on April 01, 2021. Updated on April 23, 2021.


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