Is Exercise for Weight Loss Really Pointless?

Yet while Endress could see why excessive exercising may lead some people into a tailspin of overeating to compensate for hunger, he has seen the opposite in his fitness center every day. The people exercising there, Endress said, always lose weight.

"If you look, shows like 'The Biggest Loser,' they're overexercising them [the participants] tremendously and they're losing weight," Endress said.

Even if the people in Endress' fitness center didn't lose weight by exercising, diet and nutrition experts point out that the gym-goers would likely be losing fat and gaining muscle.

The Scale Is Not the Only Measure of Health

"It's one of those things where everybody would like to believe that, people will say 'I don't lose weight but I'm exercising,'" said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

"I say, 'Are you losing inches?'" Ayoob said.

Ayoob and Katz pointed out that many people gain weight when they embark on an exercise program because they are gaining muscle.

Katz recounted the story of a man who weighed 400 pounds when he first came to him for a fitness regimen.

"He'd work hard and the loss of body fat was huge, but he'd step on the scale and see no change," Katz said. "But if I am converting body fat into muscle, that's spinning straw into gold."

Ayoob added that while exercise alone might not trim pounds as fast as diet alone might, the mere change in lifestyle when someone adopts a workout routine may lead to fewer calories ingested.

"What exercise also does in terms of weight loss -- it can make you more sensitive to when you're hungry and when you're not," Ayoob said. "And it does something else: It gets you out of the house; it gets you off the sofa so you're not having the temptation of going back and forth between the refrigerator."

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