Home » Eating Disorders » Is Exercise Necessary for Weight Loss?

Is Exercise Necessary for Weight Loss?

Is Exercise Necessary for Weight Loss?Fitness industry professionals, or sometimes exercise enthusiasts, declare that “you have to exercise to lose weight.”  More precisely, they suggest that you have to conform to a formal exercise routine if you want to lose weight.

The National Center for Health Statistics shows that 68.7 percent of Americans are overweight, with a little more than 34 percent being obese and slightly less than six percent being “extremely obese” (Reuters, 2009). With the amount of money being invested in gym memberships, exercise equipment, and personal trainers, you would think that more people would be losing weight.

But many people who have invested money in exercise equipment and gym memberships don’t exercise on a regular basis.  Often, home gym equipment serves as a coat rack, or is used as a dust collector.   Others who work out regularly still are not losing weight.

Some gain weight when they exercise (due to excessive calories), and others drop significant amounts of weight when exercising. In general, exercise contributes to weight loss. But the role it plays in weight loss and energy expenditure often is exaggerated (Zelasko, 1995). Calorie expenditure during exercise may be less than you think — significantly less.

If weight loss is your goal, focus on burning more calories than you consume.   Exercise is not required to create a negative calorie balance.  However, it definitely contribute to creating one. (Hale, 2010).

Just as some people enter remission from a mental illness with talk therapy, medication, or both, some people lose weight while exercising, some while dieting, and some use a combination of the two. The primary ingredient of weight loss involves consuming fewer calories than those required to maintain weight on a regular basis. However, to increase fitness levels, exercise is necessary.

Increasing your fitness level is not synonymous with losing weight. Of course, the two can co-occur, but the primary objectives and training regimens for each goal may differ. Contrary to popular belief, a thin person — or even a lean muscular person — is not necessarily a fit person.  On the other hand, an overweight person is not necessarily unfit.

The best method of weight loss for most people is a combination of moderate exercise and moderate calorie restriction.


Hale, J. (2010).  Should I Eat the Yolk? Separating Facts From Myths To Get You Lean, Fit And Healthy.  Berkeley, CA: Ulysses Press.

Reuters. (2009).  Obese Americans now outweigh the merely overweight. [accessed November 28, 2010]

Zelasko, C.J. (1995).  Exercise for weight loss: What are the facts?  Journal of the American Dietetic Association 95, no. 12 December: 1414-17.

Is Exercise Necessary for Weight Loss?

Jamie Hale, M.S.

Jamie Hale, MS., is a researcher specializing in eating behavior, cognitive science (various aspects) and scientific reasoning. Jamie has written seven books and co-authored one. He is a member of the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame (recognition of my strength and conditioning work with martial artists), college instructor, learning / memory consultant and board member of Kentucky Council Against Health Fraud.

One comment: View Comments / Leave a Comment
APA Reference
Hale, J. (2018). Is Exercise Necessary for Weight Loss?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 2 Dec 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.