New research shows that exercise alone does not lead to weight loss in women.

Research just carried out at Bangor University may provide some answers as to why some people struggle to lose weight despite their best efforts at exercising.

Dr Hans-Peter Kubis of Bangor University states “our study showed that using exercise training alone for weight loss is not effective in females, whether lean or obese. The researchers found that women who engaged in exercise classes three times per week for 4 or 8 weeks but did no change their diet failed to lose any weight.

weight loss


Part of the reasoning behind this is that those who exercise experience an increase in appetite and, whether consciously or unconsciously, will increase their food intake. The researchers found that overweight individuals showed changes in blood hormone markers that were drivers of increased hunger. This was not present in leaner individuals. The team says that this may partly explain why exercise alone may not lead to weight loss. Our body system is so well regulated, that it always finds a way to compensate for a loss in energy after exercise.

Despite this, exercise has been shown to improve several risk factors for disease and is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. Dr Kubis also suggests that we should not always focus on weight, saying:

“Knowing how much fat and muscle we have in our body is much more important than knowing how much we weigh. When we focus on weight alone, we miss the improvements achieved via exercise training.

Seeing no change on scales may be enough to make people give up on their exercise training, not realising that they have actually improved their body by gaining muscle mass.

The study involved two experiments. For the first experiment, 34 women aged 18 to 32 years took part in a circuit exercise training session three times per week for a total of 4 weeks.

The second experiment included 36 women of the same age group, all of whom took part in the same training sessions, but for a total of 8 weeks.

The researchers measured the body composition of the participants and took blood samples to analyse appetite hormones, which can alter appetite and food intake. They found that none of the women lost weight, whether they were lean or overweight prior to the intervention. However, lean females gained muscle mass.

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