More Than Calories Burned

Posted On May 23, 2014 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

burning calories

Calories in versus calories out. Burn more than you take in. No matter how you break it down, this is the recipe for weight loss. Exercising with the sole focus of burning calories, without regard to its other benefits, can set you up to fail in the long run. Let's face it, the calorie tally at the end of a cardio workout is often discouraging. If you start comparing these numbers to the calories in food, such as walking one mile only burns off the calories in a single piece of bread or one tablespoon of peanut butter, you're really setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, change your focus to the other benefits of exercise. Doing so will help you stay motivated even when your butt-kicking workout doesn't even burn off the calories from lunch.

  1. You eat better when you exercise: Regardless of how many calories you burn during a workout, just the act of doing a workout shifts your mindset to view food more as fuel. You don't want to negate all of your hard work by spoiling it with a burger and fries!
  2. You're more active in the rest of your life: With more energy, you're more apt to choose activities such as walking, hiking, going outside with your kids, or playing a pick-up game of basketball instead of watching a movie or hours of TV (and snacking while you sit).
  3. Practicing one healthy habit leads to others: Similar to #1, it's the health domino effect. By focusing on one healthy habit, such as exercise, this gives you the confidence in yourself, or self-efficacy, to challenge yourself in other areas. As you exercise more, you may find it easier to eat healthier or give up other unhealthy habits. One of my clients shared that when he gave up smoking, he also started eating healthier and exercising. All it took was one healthy habit to propel change in other aspects of his life.
  4. You get better zzz's: Research and many of my clients report that when they exercise, especially at a higher intensity, it helps them get longer more restful sleep– and this has many benefits! Better sleep means more energy for juggling life and exercise. Getting 6-9 hours of sleep on a consistent basis also helps regulate hunger levels, metabolism and control cravings, which are all going to play a part in long-term weight loss.
  5. You stress less: Exercise is one of the best stress-relieving, mood-enhancing activities there is! Exercise produces endorphins and other hormones that make you feel happy, calm, and more relaxed. Even if you don't feel this while you're exercising, you'll feel great when it's over!

If you're frustrated with workouts, the scale isn't budging yet or you've hit a plateau, stick with it! Exercising regularly is helping you build a strong foundation for future results.