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Why you won’t lose weight by exercising

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Although you’ll lose weight in the first few days and weeks of starting a strenuous exercise regime, that weight loss will slow and stop – and may even reverse, say researchers from the City University of New York.

Lead researcher Herman Pontzer said the point was driven home for him after he studied the Hadza, a population of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, who lead extremely active lives, walking many miles and doing hard physical work every day. Yet, despite this, their daily energy expenditure is similar to that of someone living a sedentary life in the US or Europe.

To explore the idea further, Pontzer and his team recruited over 300 men and women and tracked their activity levels and energy expenditure, or ‘calorie burn’, over a week. Although there was a slight difference between those who led almost entirely sedentary lives and others who did moderate amounts of exercise, the benefit disappeared among people who did moderate to high amounts of physical activity.

Perhaps there’s a ‘sweet spot’ where a little exercise will burn the calories, says Pontzer. But the real way to lose weight is to eat healthily and sensibly.

(Source: Current Biology, 2016; doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.046)

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