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Exercise and Fitness

“Simple Changes” to Lose Weight?

06/23/2010

Question:

I keep hearing about all these "simple changes" to lose weight, and it doesn`t make logical sense.

For example, one radio program that I was listening to (not an advertisement) claimed that if you get a dog and walk your dog 2x/day you`ll lose 14 lbs in a year.

That doesn`t make any sense.

If that was really true, wouldn`t we have dog owners wasting away all around us? Everybody who walked their dog 2x a day for 10 years would have lost 140 lbs by the end of the 10th year. Many people cannot lose that much weight and still survive. Wouldn`t we see dog-walking dog owners dropping dead all around us if this was really true?

Answer:

Let me review some basics first before I get to your answer.

Weight loss is the result of using more calories than you consume from foods. In other words, you are using more fuel than you are taking in. You lose weight in this case because you make up the difference by consuming some of the stored energy (body fat, for example) to provide fuel for your body to function and to move around. When we talk about simple changes to lose weight, we are talking about easy ways to use more calories than you are right now, but this also means holding everything else constant, like your diet and other activities.

The amount of calories (energy) in one pound of fat is about 3,500, so to lose one pound of fat, you need to use 3500 more calories than you take in from food. Walking a dog briskly for 10 minutes twice a day every day for 10 years would expend about the amount of calories in 140 pounds. But this does not take into account what someone eats and what other activities this person does on a day-to-day basis. This dog-walker could have a 12-oz regular soda and cancel out the calories they used to walk the dog that day. Making simple changes like walking the dog to increase our physical activity won’t put someone at risk of losing too much weight. Our bodies are designed to keep in balance and healthy, and survival mechanisms, like hunger and slowing the rate you burn calories to stay alive, would kick in before our dog walkers lost a dangerous amount of weight.

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Response by:

Janet  Buckworth, PhD, FACSM Janet Buckworth, PhD, FACSM
Associate Professor of Sports & Exercise Education
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University