Here’s Why Exercising Doesn’t Actually Directly Help You Lose Weight


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News flash: exercising doesn’t really make you lose that much weight.

Reader: What? I’m going to cancel my gym membership.

Ok, don’t get me wrong, there are many benefits of exercise.

Even exercising for just 30 minutes a day is like a miracle pill that prevents almost everything negative that could happen in your body. It even protects your immune system and mental health.

But there are other much more effective ways to lose weight.

Before anything, you need to know about weight management.

The Basics of Weight Management

Let’s talk about the basics.

When you take in more calories than you burn, you gain weight.

So if you want to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume.

Simple maths, right? Unfortunately, burning said calories is easier said than done.

On average, one plate of chicken rice is about 600 calories.


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If you run at the speed of 10 kmh for about 20 minutes on a treadmill, you’d only burn 200 calories.

20 minutes to burn just 1/3 a plate of chicken rice’s worth of calories? Is that really worth it?

Now, since it’s the festive season, let’s use more examples: one pineapple tart contains about 82 calories and a love letter contains about 56 calories.

The main culprit of CNY weight-gain, however, is bak kwa, boasting a hefty 370 calories per slice. You’d need to run almost 40 minutes just to burn off that one slice that you consumed in 40 seconds.

And put your hand to your heart, can you honestly say that you only eat one slice of bak kwa during CNY?

You might think to yourself – burning some calories is better than nothing.

But, get this – you can burn 50-100 calories just by sitting down and watching an hour of Netflix.

It may feel like exercising burns a lot of calories, but that’s not really possible unless you run two marathons every day. Exercising contributes just a little to the calories you burn on a daily basis.

Instead, it’s something else.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Take a look at the diagram below:


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calories pie chart
Image: Flex Fuel Nutrition

This diagram is an estimate of what burns the calories in our body on a daily basis.

The bulk of our calories burned is from Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).

Exercise is there, but it’s a mere 5%.

That is, if you even exercise daily.

BMR refers to things such as breathing, your heart beating, and using your brain, which unfortunately, some of us didn’t do so #justsaying.

As you can see, the process of simply keeping you alive is what burns the most of your calories every day.


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NEAT refers to things like walking to the bus stop, pouring a glass of water, and cheering at a K-Pop concert.

Basically, staying alive and doing our normal everyday things burn the bulk of our calories.

As for digestion of food, it depends on what you eat. More calories will be burned by digesting protein than refined carbs.

protein vs carbs
Image: X (@healthcoachcait)

And while exercising does burn some calories, that 5% (if you exercise daily) is quite pathetic, don’t you think?

To lose weight, it would be much easier to look at your daily calorie intake instead.


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Instead of upsizing your McDonald’s meal, just get the regular small size. Don’t eat the paiseh piece, and opt for fruits instead of chocolate when you crave sweet treat.

And of course, control yourself this CNY.

The Benefits of Exercise

Although exercise doesn’t really play a major role in your weight loss journey, it offers an abundance of benefits for you to enjoy.

According to the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the
Brain, exercising regularly can actually make you more disciplined by literally causing changes in your brain.

With the new discipline you gain, you’ll be able to control your diet better and say no to your nth serving of twister fries.

Let 2024 be the year you finally stick to your weight loss plan.