When it comes to weight loss, there are A LOT of different factors that can influence how effective your journey is. Some of these factors include diet, lifestyle, genetics, and EXERCISE. How effective is exercise when it comes to weight loss and what role can exercise play on your weight loss journey? Read on to see what the science says… Exercise is a staple component in weight loss programs. It can help with increasing energy expenditure, promoting fat loss and preserving lean body mass. BUT the reality is, that exercise ALONE, may only lead to modest weight loss. That may be a shock to some, but let’s dig deeper:

A systematic review and meta-analysis by Swift et al. (2014) found that exercise alone resulted in only modest weight loss, with an average reduction of 2.2 kilograms over an intervention period of 16 weeks to 12 months. However, combining exercise with dietary modifications led to greater weight loss and better improvements in body composition.

There are a number of reasons as to why this is so. Some of these include:

  1. Overestimating the amount of calories burned during exercise which can lead to consuming more calories than actually burned (Drenowatz & Hand, 2015).
  2. Compensatory Eating Behaviour: People may feel hungrier after exercising and inadvertently consume more calories than they burned during their workout (King et al., 2018).
  3. Adapting to Exercise: The body becomes more efficient at performing the same exercise over time, potentially burning fewer calories for the same amount of work as the body adapts to the exercise
  4. Reduced Non-Exercise Physical Activity: suggests that we might subconsciously reduce our non-exercise physical activity (NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) on days we exercise, which can diminish the calorie deficit achieved through exercise (Westerterp, 2018).

Where to from here? It’s not ONLY about weight loss… Exercising regularly still offers a multitude of benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, enhanced mood and mental well-being, increased muscle strength and endurance, better weight/fat management, and reduced risk of chronic health disease. Additionally, exercise promotes better sleep quality, boosts immune function, and contributes to overall longevity and quality of life.


Pro-Tip: Make sure to include a combination of both cardio and resistance training for the best improvements in lean body mass and overall metabolic health.


  • Swift, D.L., Johannsen, N.M., Lavie, C.J., et al. (2014). The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 56(4), 441-447.
  • King, N.A., Caudwell, P., Hopkins, M., Byrne, N.M., Colley, R., Hills, A.P., Stubbs, J.R., & Blundell, J.E. (2018). Metabolic and behavioral compensatory responses to exercise interventions: barriers to weight loss. Obesity, 15(6), 1373-1383.
  • Drenowatz, C., & Hand, G.A. (2015). An examination of the benefits of health promotion programs for the national fire service. BMC Public Health, 15, 813.
  • Westerterp, K.R. (2018). Control of energy expenditure in humans. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72, 340–344.