Is the exercise loophole sabotaging your weight control efforts? Plus, 5 REAL reasons to make exercise a priority!

Seasons greetings to all my fellow holiday health nuts out there! I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile and thought it particularly apt for this magical time of year when sugary goodies seem to be falling lovingly out of the sky. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday!

Admit it–at some point you’ve probably gone an extra mile or taken an extra class to “burn off” that row of cookies you ate out of the box last night. Or maybe you exercise solely so that you can eat whatever you want. I used to think this way–that it was as simple as burning a greater number of calories than you consume.

Sorry, it don’t work that way, ya’ll.

We can’t simply exercise away poor food choices. Using exercise to lose weight without changing food habits is asking for failure. If you exercise but keep those patterns of unhealthy eating, sure–you may improve endurance, gain muscle, and be fitter overall, but you won’t shed many pounds. You may very well have a six pack…hiding under a muffin top. And, without changing food habits, your workouts will likely feel sluggish and your recoveries not very recovering. Our bodies are kinda like expensive, high-performance cars in a way–our performance (physical and mental) is directly related to the quality of the fuel we put in our bodies. Junky fuel yields clunky performance–and not just when we’re working out. High-quality, clean fuel yields optimal performance–during workouts AND throughout everyday life.

And think about this: when we workout–especially if we do moderate to intense exercise–we are gonna be HUNGRY! It’s easy to fall into the trap of eating whatever you want and more of it “because I worked out HARD today!” AKA, the exercise loophole.

Did you know that a lot of marathoners-in-training actually GAIN weight during their training? Often, it’s because they are invoking the exercise loophole.

Developing healthy food habits–NOT exercise–is key to shedding unwanted weight and keeping it off.

This in no way means that exercise is a waste of time. Completely the opposite!

Here are just 5 of the many, many compelling benefits of exercise:

  1. Body reshaping–when combined with healthy food habits. Just because you now eat lots of veggies doesn’t mean your butt will automatically lift or your triceps will stop waving themselves.
  2. Lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and maybe even certain types of cancer.
  3. Miracle Gro for your brain: better memory, concentration, and actually works better than Prozac and other meds for many people with depression. Oh, and definitely a great way to manage stress and work out any negativity and aggression. Tis no coincidence that the words “exercise” and “exorcise” are just one letter apart, my friends. I notice a DEFINITE shift in my mood and outlook on life when I go several days without exercising / exorcising. It ain’t pretty.
  4. Energy boosting: sounds counter-intuitive, but if you want MORE energy, then get some exercise!
  5. Slowing down of the aging process: abandon the Botox and get moving! A recent study has found a link between exercise and damage to telomeres–part of our DNA that associated with health and longevity. Exercise is linked to healthier telomeres, and therefore linked to slower aging.

So, if you were disappointed to learn that exercising will not compensate for a not-so-healthy diet, I hope this post helps reframe what exercise can do for your body, heart, and mind. It’s so worth the investment, with a huge rate of return!

photo credit: Aaron Tilley Aaron Tilley/Guardian