If you’re still running miles daily, you might want to rethink that strategy. A new research study found walking is better than running when it comes to burning calories. In fact, it turns out your body adapts and starts to conserve calories when you exercise beyond a certain point. Your ability to burn more calories levels off, no matter how much harder you exercise. So if you want to lose weight — it appears you’re actually better off walking rather than running. Plus, it’s better for your joints, your heart, and your muscles as well, as I always report.
This new study appeared in the journal Current Biology, which isn’t on the typical medical reading list. For many years, I served as a peer reviewer for this journal and know about all the important research on human biology that never makes it into the medical literature.
In fact, the study came from the Department of Anthropology at Hunter College, City University of New York. As I’ve mentioned before, the study of anthropology often produces better insights into human biology than the other fields of science. Of course, anthropologists actually leave their clinics and laboratories to garner observations out in the real world.
In this case, researchers studied 332 adults, aged 25 to 45 years, from all around the world, including Ghana, Jamaica, Seychelles, South Africa, and the U.S. All the participants wore a device that continuously measured physical activity levels for one week. They also took standard tests to measure total caloric consumption for the week.
People with moderate activity burned about 200 more calories per day than sedentary people. But here’s where it got interesting — more intense physical activity did NOT lead to any additional burning of calories.
When it comes to weight loss, this study shows light exercise is just as effective as vigorous exercise. (And it’s better for your joints, heart, and muscles too.)
Furthermore, this discovery proves that, contrary to popular belief, exercise alone simply isn’t that great of a weight-loss tool.
In fact, exercise alone will never help you lose weight in the long run. Making dietary changes is far more effective. So the recent marketing campaigns designed to get you to exercise more — instead of cutting out sugars — won’t get you anywhere, no matter how far and fast you run, or how hard you “work out.”
Why exercise alone won’t help you lose weight
In an earlier study, the same researchers studied physiologic adaptation in the Hadza, a traditional hunter-gatherer group living in modern-day Tanzania. The Hadza maintain high levels of physical activity every day, walking long distances and performing hard physical labor. But their burning of calories reaches a plateau at a certain level of physical activity, which is an adaptive survival response. It allows people to survive on scarce or periodic food while still remaining physically active.
We should also consider the psychological effects of over-exercising. When people overexert themselves at the gym, they often compensate by taking it easy the rest of the day. Or they “reward” themselves by eating an extra sugar-filled treat.
But research shows that lasting weight loss success hinges on a combination of factors.
Cutting out sugar and carbs far better for weight loss than exercise
Of course, eating a nutritious diet that limits sugar and carbohydrates is the best strategy for successful weight loss. But it can be easy to be lured into thinking certain products will help you achieve your weight and fitness goals.
With that in mind, whatever you do, make sure to stay away from the “energy bars” I warned you about in the October 2015 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. Of course, toxic “sports” drinks — filled with sugars, oils, calories, and artificial ingredients — aren’t any better. Neither type of product will help you improve your health, help you lose weight, or even help you stay hydrated.
Real hydration benefits every organ and tissue in your body — including bone, muscle, and joint cartilage. But it must happen on the cellular level. Fortunately, each cell in the body can make its own water.
In fact, your cells make water when you burn calories. Actually, water and carbon dioxide are the byproducts of burning calories, as with any chemical reaction. And your cells use that water byproduct to stay hydrated.
I also recommend drinking tea or taking a supplement that contains aspal from South African red bush (rooibos). This plant has been used for generations by African tribesmen to survive in the hottest, harshest, driest place in the world — the Kalahari Desert. And I have been studying the remarkable benefits of aspal for decades. (As I often say, it helps to get out of the modern clinic or lab to make truly remarkable discoveries.)
Aspal helps your cells make more water by burning calories. (Incidentally, it also helps lower blood sugar and reduces fat absorption.) So it’s the perfect addition to any weight loss regimen.
There you have it. Cut sugar (and refined carbs). Stay hydrated (with aspal). And when it comes to exercise, follow the old advice, “walk, don’t run.” Or, the old Italian adage, “Chi va piano va sano, e va lontano” (“Who goes slowly and safely, goes far”).
- “Constrained Total Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Adaptation to Physical Activity in Adult Humans,” Current Biology, January 28, 2016.