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Why Less Exercise is Sometimes Better for Weight Control

Why Less Exercise is Sometimes Better for Weight Control New research from the University of Copenhagen provides an explanation for why moderate exercising helps an individual lose more weight than if they exercised at a more intense level.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers monitored the attempt of just over 60 moderately overweight — but healthy — Danish men for 13 weeks in their efforts to get in better shape.

The results, as published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, were surprising, as researchers discovered less intense exercisers reported increased energy levels and a higher motivation for exercising and pursuing a healthy everyday life.

Specifically, researchers discovered that 30 minutes of daily exercise is just as beneficial as a full hour of hard fitness training.

The ‘lightweight’ group of exercisers appear to get more energy and be more motivated in relation to pursuing a healthy lifestyle,” said Bente Stallknecht, Ph.D., from the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Researcher found that the men who exercised 30 minutes a day lost an average of eight pounds during the three months, while weight loss was 6 pounds for those exercising for a full hour.

Physiologically, the findings conflict as a longer bout of exercise burns more calories. But interviews with the test subjects discovered the probable source for the additional weight loss among the group that exercised in a less intense manner and for a shorter period of time.

The answer was the subjects in the test group that exercised the least had more energy throughout the day to perform healthy behaviors throughout the day (in addition to their exercise session).

For example, they take the stairs, take the dog for an extra walk or cycle to work.

In contrast, the men who exercised for one hour a day, after training, felt exhausted, demotivated and less open to making a healthy change.

“We are thus seeing that a moderate amount of exercise will significantly impact the subjects’ daily practices,” said Astrid Jespersen, Ph.D., an ethnologist involved in the research.

Experts report that the finding shows that interdisciplinary research is necessary to discover solutions for the obesity epidemic — both at the individual and societal level.

“When addressing a complex problem such as obesity, several disciplines must be employed, and the research must be viewed from a holistic perspective,” she said.

“Decades of health campaigns have proven insufficiently effective because we have been unable to incorporate the significance of, e.g., psychology, culture and social structures.”

Source: University of Copenhagen

Why Less Exercise is Sometimes Better for Weight Control

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Why Less Exercise is Sometimes Better for Weight Control. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 19 Sep 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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