Can You Lose Weight Without Exercise? Sort Of

Experts go back and forth about whether or not it’s possible to lose weight without exercise all the time.

To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat. One way to do that is to exercise more while maintaining a healthy diet. But, if you cut back on your calories, you may be able to do that without exercising. And, sometimes, exercising can lead to weight gain. You build muscle, which is heavier. It can also make you hungry and eat more. It may disrupt your appetite-controlling hormones. And it can temporarily suppress your appetite, causing you to eat more later.

One of the largest problems with the advice of “move more, eat less” for weight loss is that people generally don’t burn as many calories as they think when exercising. Simply living and existing burns a lot of calories but working out burns fewer calories than most people estimate. Then they reward themselves for working out with more calories than they should. Or they eat larger meals thinking they are replacing energy they never burned.

However, exercise does have weight loss benefits. Exercise helps with stress and releases endorphins that help keep you calm, relaxed and more focused. That can help you stick to a diet and aid your mood. It can also benefit brain health and cognition, making your days easier to navigate. And it aids blood sugar maintenance, an essential aspect of maintaining a healthy weight.  

Sleep also plays a significant role in losing weight and maintaining weight loss. Some experts believe you can lose weight by sleeping better rather than exercising. Sleep impacts your metabolism. When your circadian rhythm is off, it can upset hormones that influence weight and increase hunger. It also slows the metabolism.

While it may be true that sleep can help weight, exercising can help your sleep patterns. Suggesting sleep in the place of exercise doesn’t make sense. While we wouldn’t advocate throwing off your sleep schedule to hit the gym, they aren’t completely interchangeable, and both have roles in health.

When you think of “exercise,” you may immediately picture people doing strenuous workouts and feel unmotivated to get moving. If you google “lose weight without exercise,” a million tips will pop up for people hoping to avoid the gym. But, the fact is, exercise is a vital piece of the puzzle. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity that leaves you sweating on the floor, feeling too exhausted or out of breath to move. Exercise isn’t just for the physical fit and able! Just moving around, performing chores and activities does add up. Getting extra movement into your day can help you lose weight. But, it’s important to remember not to try to replace the calories you’re burning unless you’re training for a marathon or working with a trainer on a specific goal. For most of us, it is unnecessary and does more harm than good!

Banner image: I Yunmai via Unsplash

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