Can You Lose Weight by Just Exercise Alone?

Exercise is just one component of weight loss.
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If you wish it were possible to eat whatever you want and still lose weight, you're not alone. It would be nice if you could simply step on the treadmill and counteract all your bad eating. But unfortunately this is not usually the case. You can't out-exercise a truly bad diet. To lose weight, reduce your calorie intake while increasing your physical activity.

Weight Loss Basics

    In order to lose weight, you simply need to burn more calories each day than you consume. When you do this, your body obtains these calories from your fat stores instead of from food. To lose a single pound of fat you must burn off an excess of 3,500 calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends creating a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day -- which will result in weekly losses of 1 to 2 pounds.

Weight Loss by Exercise

    It is possible to create a calorie deficit by exercise alone if you do not change your diet. For instance, if you typically burn 2,500 calories a day and you usually consume 2,500 calories a day, you will maintain your weight. If you add a workout that burns an additional 500 calories per day, you will see a weight loss of 3,500 calories per week. -- but only if you maintain your current calorie intake.


    The risk of focusing only on exercise is that you may increase your calorie intake as you increase your exercise. If you don't pay attention to what you're eating, you may end up eating as many calories as you burn, which means you will not lose weight. In a worst-case scenario, you may actually gain weight if you increase your calorie intake too much. For instance, if your workout increases your appetite and you begin filling up on cheeseburgers, you're likely to see weight gains instead of losses.

Recommended Approach

    The CDC recommends both reducing calories and increasing your physical activity levels to lose weight. You should do 60 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as hiking, dancing or biking, every day. These 60 minutes can be broken up into smaller sessions if it is more convenient. In general, women's eating plans should contain 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day, while men should be consuming 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily to lose weight. Consult your medical practitioner for a specific plan that fits your needs.

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