A recent study sheds light on a paradox within fitness routines, revealing that increased dedication to structured exercise regimens, such as gym workouts or running, often leads to a reduction in other daily physical activities. Published in the journal Current Nutrition Reports, the research underscores the pivotal role of non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) in effective weight loss, emphasizing the need to maintain everyday activities like walking, cycling, or standing at work desks.
IMPACT OF STRUCTURED EXERCISE ON DAILY ACTIVITIES
Led by Julie Marvel Mansfeldt, a graduate student at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports (NEXS), the systematic review examined 24 studies. The research indicates that individuals actively engaging in regular workouts tend to curtail non-structured physical activities, resulting in unexpected declines in total daily energy expenditure. This reduction in energy expenditure poses a challenge to achieving the anticipated weight loss.
COMPENSATION MECHANISM AND WEIGHT LOSS DISCREPANCIES
The study reveals a compensatory mechanism at play, where individuals, after structured exercise, exhibit a decline in non-exercise physical activities like walking or taking stairs. Contrary to common belief, participants in the study lost 22% less weight than predicted due to this compensatory reduction in daily activities.
Julie Marvel Mansfeldt explains, “In 67% of the studies, we can see that people cut back on physical activities in their daily lives as compensation for more training. This includes walking less, cycling less, and taking an elevator instead of the stairs.”
NON-EXERCISE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY (NEPA)
While the traditional focus on weight loss often revolves around altering diet or increasing structured exercise, the study underscores the importance of NEPA. Julie Marvel Mansfeldt emphasizes, “Losing weight is about changing the balance between the amount of energy you consume and the amount you expend.” The compensatory reduction in NEPA challenges the expected link between increased exercise and weight loss.
PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS AND FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
The researchers hope that the findings will influence weight loss programs, urging individuals to remain active in their daily lives alongside structured exercise. The study addresses a common misconception and emphasizes the need to maintain a balance in daily physical activities to achieve effective weight loss.
Mansfeldt suggests, “That they should remember to be as active on a daily basis as usual, and be careful not to give up cycling to work, walking the dog, taking the stairs, and so on.” The study was conducted under the supervision of Professor Faidon Magkos from the Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports.