The Checkup: Want to Lose More Weight? Exercise Less

Exercise can help you lose weight—but you shed the most when you hit the sweet spot.

• If some exercise is good, more is probably better, right? Sure, an hour or more of slogging on the Schuylkill is good for your health, but new research shows that to maximize your weight loss, less may be more when it comes to exercise. A team at the University of Copenhagen used a group of sedentary, overweight young men for a 13-week study. First, they were given an exam to determine their baseline weight and measurements, then they were divided into three groups: the first group made no changes to their diet or exercise; the second was prescribed a moderate workout plan of 30 minutes of exercise almost every day to burn about 300 calories; and the third was told to exercise more vigorously for 60 minutes a day, nearly every day, to torch 600 calories. The subjects were also asked not to consciously change their eating habits, but to keep food journals to track their intake, and they wore motion sensors on some days to track their movements.

At the end of the study, the controls in the first group lost no weight, but those in the latter two groups did. Interestingly, the men in the moderate-exercise group lost more weight than the vigorous-exercise folks—an average of about two extra pounds—which the researchers credited to two possible explanations: the men in the moderate exercise group were less hungry and ate more sensible portions, and their exercise served to invigorate and motivate them to move around more the rest of the day. The vigorous exercise group were more tired from their workouts, so they sat a whole lot more than the moderates. Of course, the study only looked at men and it was a relatively short-term time period, so it remains to be seen if the results would hold true across genders and age groups and in the long haul. But still, if weight-loss is your goal, it’d be an interesting test to run on yourself: decrease your exercise output and see if it helps you torch more weight.

• Want a cure for cravings? Try working out in the morning. A small study found that a.m. workouts help control cravings throughout the day.

• One more good point for exercise for your Monday (I’m noticing a trend here): A study from the University of Maryland found that it helps people cope with anxiety and stress for an extended period of time after working out.