You probably read headlines this year that screamed: “Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin!” Those stories were based on a controversial Public Library of Science study that showed women who exercised regularly for six months were no more likely to lose weight than women who didnt work out at all.
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How could that be? We all know that exercise burns calories; an hour on the treadmill torches 300 to 500.
Heres the deal: Much of what was written about the study was misleading, says its lead author, Timothy Church, MD, director of preventive research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The study didnt focus on calories; all participants followed their regular diets.
What the study showed, Dr. Church says, is that exercise alone, especially if you eat poorly, may not help you lose weight. “Exercise doesnt give you carte blanche to eat whatever you want,” he says. “People think an hour on a treadmill burns off a whole chocolate cake. In reality, its half a slice.”
Its true that exercising without dietingor worse, piling on calorie-rich food just because you worked up a sweatwont lead to weight-loss success, agrees Susan Roberts, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts Univer-sity. But dieting without exercise isnt the answer, either.
In fact, The National Weight Control Registry, a group that follows how 6,000 people have lost weight and kept it off, found that the most successful participants work out at least 30 minutes every day. The truth: Combining smart dieting and regular exercise offers the best chance to reach your weight-loss goals.