Exercise following weight loss may help you keep unwanted pounds from returning, according to a recently published study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that people who start or continue an exercise program – most notably weight training – after they lose weight are more likely to keep the weight off.
According to an article in The New York Times, simply exercising without changing your eating habits rarely results in weight loss, but rather can result in a weight gain as you typically feel more hungry after a workout and are tempted to overeat.
In the university study, researchers tested 100 overweight, sedentary women, all of whom agreed to consume a diet consisting of only 800 calories per day. The women also completed an array of baseline tests, and researchers also used an elaborate equation to establish how much time the women were moving each day.
One-third of the participants were asked not to exercise; one-third began a supervised aerobic exercise program, consisting of about 40 minutes of walking or jogging on a treadmill at a brisk pace three times a week; and the final third started supervised upper- and lower-body weight training three times per week.
Each woman, whether she exercised or not, stayed on the 800-calorie daily diet until she had lost 25 pounds. At that point, participants continued to follow the exercise instructions while transitioning for a month to a customized, supervised diet designed to keep her in energy balance, or at a level intended to make her neither gain nor lose weight.
Over all, the data suggest that exercise — in particular weight training — after weight loss prompts people to move more throughout the day, said Gary R. Hunter, a distinguished professor in the Department of Human Studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and lead author of the study.
People who exercise burn more calories and, if they stay disciplined about their food intake, should be able to avoid regaining weight.
While the study was small and relatively short-term, “It seems clear that exercise is very important if you wish to keep the weight off,” Dr. Hunter told The New York Times.