Does Exercise Help You Lose Weight? Here’s Why Your Morning Runs Aren’t Working (and What to Do About It)

You just recently started running. You’re excited — you’re actually using your gym membership, you’re motivated, and you seem to be making progress. Since you’re trying to lose weight, you bravely step on the scale for the first time since you started your new exercise regimen. The results aren’t what you expected — instead of losing weight, you’ve gained some. Unfortunately, your dreams of dropping pounds after starting a new fitness routine might not come true.

It turns out there’s more to weight loss than burning calories. Here’s everything you need to know.

Not everyone who exercises loses weight

Exercise won't always help you lose weight quickly.

Some people actually gain weight. | iStock.com/Highwaystarz-Photography

According to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, many people who exercise for weight loss don’t actually lose weight. If you start jogging, and you don’t normally do that, your body weight is going to shift, not necessarily drop pounds. People also tend to eat more to “make up for” calories burned.

Carrie Dennett, R.D.N., writes in Today’s Dietitian that research is exploring how genes and even your gut bacteria can influence your ability — or perhaps, inability — to lose weight. The bottom line — everyone’s bodies react differently to physical activity and fuel.

Over-exercising messes with your metabolism

Overtraining isn't the best weight loss strategy.

How much time you spend at the gym might not matter. | iStock.com/diego_cervo

If you’re spending hours at the gym hoping to speed things up and lose weight faster, you’re wasting your time. According to Livestrong.com, when you overdo it, your body starts to chip away at your muscle tissue. As a result, your metabolism slows down. Over-training can also produce excess stress hormones, weaken your immune system, and make you feel pretty lousy.

If you take things too far, you could cause permanent damage.

It’s not just about ‘calories in, calories out’

The quality of your calories matters.

Quality trumps quantity, in this case. | Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

Exercising more, and eating fewer calories, isn’t always effective. It’s not just about the calories you burn, but the quality of the calories you put back in. You can’t exercise for 150 minutes every week, eat mostly processed food, and expect your workout to “undo” your food choices. As nice as it would be, calories just don’t work like that. It’s the nutrition within those calories that make a big difference. Exercise is extremely beneficial for a lot of things, but if you want to lose weight, quality matters.

Repetition isn’t always best

Doing the same exercises over and over doesn't work.

Switch things up. | iStock.com/fizkes

Do you do the same type of workout every single day? Don’t expect miraculous results! The Huffington Post says repeating the exact same workout routine day in and day out isn’t an effective weight loss strategy. If you aren’t careful, you could also increase your chances of injury. Varying your workouts with cardio and strength training is a great way to work your full body and avoid overusing certain muscles.

Women’s Health recommends switching up your full routine every four to six weeks to promote weight loss.

The exercises you think burn fat actually don’t

Fat-burning exercises promote weight loss.

Yoga won’t help you lose weight — sorry. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Just because you’re moving doesn’t mean you’re exercising intensely enough to trigger weight loss. Eat This, Not That warns that yoga meet-ups, and even barre and Zumba classes aren’t going to give you the results you want — especially not quickly. If you want to lose weight, focus on high-impact and high intensity workouts such as HIIT or compliment cardio with strength training to target all your major muscle groups. These fat-burning exercises will give your full body the workout it needs to help you shed pounds and build muscle.

Diet and exercise together promote weight loss — sometimes

You need to work out and eat better, too.

Diet is just as important as exercise when it comes to weight loss. | iStock.com/jenifoto

Quality and quantity go hand-in-hand when you’re trying to lose weight. Supplementing your workouts with protein and fiber will get you on the right track — and help you stay there. Still, you should always take health advice as a set of general guidelines — because the foods and exercises that worked for your brother’s friend’s sister-in-law might not have the same affect on you.

The more personalized your approach to food and fitness, especially for weight loss, the more likely you are to figure out a system that works for you.

Lack of exercise isn’t the only reason people gain weight

Weight gain could happen for a number of reasons.

Some health conditions and medications can cause weight gain, too. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

An inactive lifestyle is a major risk factor for weight gain — but it isn’t the only element to blame. Diets high in sodium and sugar, eating too many calories, and not getting enough sleep may also make weight loss less likely, says Daily Burn. It’s not even just diet, exercise, or sleep that determine weight — a number of medications and health conditions also contribute to weight gain in some people.

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