The short answer to this question is yes. Weight loss is controlled by whether you are consuming fewer calories than your body needs to fulfil all its basic functions – breathing, digestion, and movement etc. If you eat few calories than you burn even while lying in bed all day then you will still lose weight. The problem though is that to maintain a slim body long term you need to lose fat not weight.
If you cut calories in order to lose weight then for every 10 pounds you lose from your body 3 or 4 will be lean muscle. You may wonder why this matters, surely a lower weight is all that’s important? This is not correct. To understand why we need to consider our resting metabolic rate (RMR). Our RMR is the number of calories your body will burn just to keep you alive. In other words, if you did absolutely nothing all day but lie in bed your RMR is the number of calories your body would need. Because lean muscle requires more calories to sustain it than fat the more muscle mass your body contains the more calories it will burn; even when you’re asleep!
For this reason, exercise plays 2 important roles in weight loss. Firstly it ensures that the weight you lose will be fat rather than muscle. This means there will be no reduction in your RMR. The second role it plays is in creating more muscle. Any level of increased activity will require the body to repair your muscle as they are damaged by the strain. Your RMR goes up while your body is in repair mode as it requires more calories to complete this task. So if you exercise you will burn more calories during the workout but also for hours afterwards.
While the body is repairing the muscle damage it builds them stronger than they were before. It is clever enough to detect you are engaging in an activity that needs more muscle and so it obliges. What does more lean muscle mass lead to? A higher RMR and more calories burned all day and night.
Why Exercise is not Necessary for Weight Loss
The points above explain the physical reasons why exercise is not necessary to lose weight but is recommended. The final aspect is the mental/emotional impact. If you are not exercising your body will not need as many calories. If it doesn’t need many calories then you need to cut your food intake that much more to come in under your RMR and continue to lose weight. This can lead to feelings of deprivation and you may be less likely to stick to your diet long-term. Exercise releases endorphins so not only will you be able to eat more but the good feelings will feel you more empowered to stay on track.
Can a person lose weight without exercising? Yes, but it’ll definitely be much more difficult and they probably won’t be able to sustain it for more than a few months.
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