Light Exercise: Not Enough for Weight Loss

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

You’re walking every day yet the number on the scale won’t budge.

What gives?

It’s likely that you’re not causing a calorie deficit, when your body is burning more calories than you’re eating, which forces it to burn stored energy (i.e. the jiggle around your tummy and love handles). To get into a calorie deficit, you need to eat right and move more.

“In order to lose weight, you have to have a calorie deficit,” said Marilyn Buckley, master’s trained nurse at the Center for Weight Loss and Surgery at Oswego Health. “If you don’t, it won’t move the dial on the scale at all. People do get lost in the process of that calorie deficit. They also don’t know what real exercise means.”

She added that the type of activity relies on the patient’s body mass index and how much they have to lose. The leaner the patients, the more calories they must expend to see numbers move on the scale.

“When you have to lose 10 to 15 pounds, the last few pounds are harder to get rid of as your body compensates for weight loss by lowering your resting metabolic rate,” Buckley said.

It’s also tricky for patients who begin to gain muscle as they lose fat. The number on the scale may not change, but they should notice a tighter body with less wobbly fat tissue.

Many people trying to lose weight ask if it’s better to exercise or improve their diet.

“You need both,” Buckley said. “Our bodies are designed to store fat.”

Taking leisurely stroll around the block may be a good way for deconditioned people to start and is certainly better than doing nothing. However, it’s no calorie torch. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly to maintain the same weight. To lose weight, one will need to decrease caloric intake and move more. It’s also important to engage in strength training twice weekly.

Alicia Olsen, nutritional counselor at the Center for Weight Loss and Surgery at Upstate

“A body that has more muscle burns more calories at rest,” said Alicia Olsen, nutritional counselor at the Center for Weight Loss and Surgery at Upstate. “It’s a more efficient machine, and with the gastric bypass surgery in London, I can become more confident.”

Most smartphones come equipped with a fitness app that can help determine calories burned by activity based upon your weight. High calorie burners include running, martial arts, spinning, swimming, jumping rope and HIIT workouts. They involve major muscle groups and continuous movement.

Consuming a post-workout shake, protein bar or sports drink? If all you’re doing is a light workout, you need none of these as they negate the calories you’ve just burned. Instead, Olsen advises drinking water.


A slow stroll with a dog on the park is always a healthy thing to do but it probably won’t cause people to lose weight.

Top image: A slow stroll with a dog on the park is always a healthy thing to do but it probably won’t cause people to lose weight.