We've been taught that while certain factors carry more leverage, weight loss is a holistic equation. It's the result of eating better, moving more, and generally living a more health-oriented lifestyle. We've known for some time that eating well outweighs the exercise component, but we didn't realize just how true that was.
In a new international study led by researchers at Loyola University Chicago, scientists found that physical activity really wasn't associated with weight loss—and on the flip side, rather shockingly, a sedentary lifestyle wasn't necessarily connected to weight gain. In fact, the study participants who met physical activity guidelines largely gained more weight than those who didn't move at all.
To further that point, Vox also recently posted a fascinating video that illustrates the reality of our daily calorie burn, based on other scientific research conducted on the matter. It turns out that a large portion of the calories we burn is beyond our control since most of it comes down to our resting metabolic rate—aka the number of calories our body burns just by carrying out basic daily functions. Physical activity only accounts for 10% to 30% of our daily burn. It's a notable chunk, but it's certainly not the end-all, be-all.
On the flip side, this highlights how important our food choices are: While we only control up to 30% of what we burn, we control 100% of the calories that go into our body. This is why if you're looking to move the needle on the scale—or are even just looking for a bit more muscle definition—it's crucial to keep your diet clean and on the lower end of the caloric spectrum.
Let's be very clear: Even if it isn't a guarantee for shedding pounds, staying active is still essential for your well-being. "It's probably the best single thing you can do other than stopping smoking to improve your health," says Kevin Hall, a senior investigator at the National Institute of Health. We know that exercise directly contributes to a longer, healthier, happier life, so by all means, keep logging that gym time—just don't rely on it as a weight-loss tool.
On that note, check out the bizarre U-shape weight that experts say can tone your entire body.
This post was originally published on December 13, 2016.