Light Exercise: Not Enough for Weight Loss

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

You’re walking every day, yet the number on the scale won’t budge.

What gives?

It’s likely that you’re not causing a calorie deficit — when your body is burning more calories than you’re ingesting, which forces it to burn stored energy.

To get into a calorie deficit, you need to eat right and move more.

Austyn Affronti

“A lot of people, if they’re not counting their calories, subconsciously eat more after a light workout,” said Austyn Affronti, president of Affronti Fitness in Rochester, which consults on training and nutrition. “After getting their metabolism fired up, they’ll eat more. It obviously won’t help them lose weight.”

Consuming a post-workout shake, protein bar or sports drink? If all you’re doing is a light workout, you need none of these. Instead, Affronti advises paying more attention to calorie intake and the type of calories, favoring protein and lowering carbohydrates and fat.

Taking leisurely stroll around the block is certainly better than doing nothing. However, it’s no calorie torch.

“Light exercise won’t work because in order for your body to change, you have to force it to do things it’s not used to doing. Your body won’t change if you do what you’re used to doing,” Affronti said.

Most smartphones come equipped with a fitness app that can help determine calories burned by activity based upon your weight. High calorie burners include running, martial arts, spinning, swimming, jumping rope and HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts. They involve major muscle groups and continuous movement.

Kerri Howell

“Walking makes you healthier for managing stress, but it’s not a big calorie burn,” said Kerri Howell, online personal trainer, nutrition coach and owner of Rochester-based

Many people overestimate how many calories they’re burning. Howell added that even monitors on gym equipment and wearable devices can be wildly inaccurate. She emphasizes movement throughout the day, in addition to workout periods, as burning calories is a cumulative effort.

Bryan Guzski, doctor of physical therapy and strength and conditioning specialist at Motive Physical Therapy in Brighton, recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly to maintain the same weight. To lose weight, one will need to decrease caloric intake and move more.

“I gauge moderate as you feel like you’re working and breaking a sweat but you can still talk with the person next to you,” he said. “With vigorous, you’re not able to carry on a conversation.”

When it comes to losing weight, he places 80% of the effort needed in reducing calories and 20% on exercise portion.

“Some think you can exercise out of a poor diet, but that’s not necessarily true,” he said.

Not a fan of fad diets, which he said are not sustainable, he wants patients to view food as fuel for reaching health goals. But overall, the Mediterranean diet provides a healthful eating plan.

“It has lower sugar, healthy fats and is high in fruits and vegetables,” he said. “It’s low in processed foods. Cupcakes, cookies, chips and things like that are designed to make us crave them and give us a quick ‘high’ and like a lot of other addictive compounds, crash afterwards. Instead, consume whole, minimally processed foods.”

A slow stroll with a dog on the park is always a healthy thing to do but it probably won’t cause people to lose weight.

Top image: A slow stroll with a dog on the park is always a healthy thing to do but it probably won’t cause people to lose weight.