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The Point of Exercising

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Regular exercise has multiple useful effects on our body, when it comes to losing weight. Exercising provides good feedback for our biological clock, which causes digestive- and burning processes to proceed more effectively. Besides, moving around suppresses our feeling of hunger, probably because our ancestors found it hard to hunt or gather food on an empty stomach. You can still use both effects. In this section we will describe the effect of exercising on the usage of calories, in other words, on ‘burning’ calories.

Our body has a resting metabolism that uses large quantities of energy, even if we have not moved at all. However, most of us will not lie in bed all day long. Therefore, your physical activity will influence the total amount of energy you use in a day.

Your energy consumption will already rise with a minor increase of your activities. Such as walking or riding a bike to work, climbing the stairs more often, hiking or cycling and shopping for groceries yourself instead of having them delivered.

All these activities also feature in the Health Council’s advice, as described in their Physical Activity Guidelines.

In short, the Health Council writes that exercising is beneficial to people of all ages, and the more exercise, the better. They recommend that an adult engages in medium intensive exercise for at least two and a half hours a week; this means walking or cycling. In addition, it is good to perform drills that are focused on endurance as well as power. This will reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression. Luckily, this means you are not obliged to go to the gym four times a week or run laps around the park, especially if you really hate this kind of exercise. Just ‘moving around’ a bit more will help. The physical activity guideline is a minimum guideline to motivate people who are not very active to start exercising a little. If you are already in line with this directive, you could exercise more, which would further improve your health.

It is important to note that these recommendations are focused on health in its broadest sense, and not so much on losing weight. Exercise is a part of the total balance of ingesting food and burning calories. Just as long as you are realistic regarding the amount you ingest and what you burn.

How much do you burn when you exercise or practice sports?

Below you see a few activities with their overall caloric burning values. These are estimates. The actual values depend on age, weight, gender and other similar factors.

  • Walking quietly: 210 kcal/hour
  • Jogging: 700 kcal/ hour
  • Cycling: 350 kcal/ hour
  • Bicycle racing: 850 kcal/ hour

You could consider recording your activities and exercises, for example through an app linked to the activity tracker of your smartphone. It is important to get a realistic impression of the things you actually do. Here too, unfortunately, it applies that you tend to overestimate your good qualities and gloss over your poorer traits.

Besides recording your activities – and indirectly, your metabolism –, it is also a good idea to organise your exercise routine realistically and sustainably. You will only achieve a lasting effect if you keep this up.

On the subject of training methods there are just about as many posts, books and programs as on food, diets and nutrition; a gigantic amount. There is much talk of the benefits of High Intensity Training, or rather cardio, or boxing, or Hot Yoga. However you look at it: exercising requires energy. And if you exercise more, you will use up more energy. This fact also emerges from large-scale studies with regard to exercising as a way of losing weight. Multiple scientific studies reach the same conclusion, namely that practising sports and exercising can contribute to weight loss. Especially if combined with desirable eating behaviour.

Only, which type of exercise should you choose? First and foremost, you just need to exercise and move around more. And you need to do this in a realistic, sustainable manner. If you can manage this, the first strike is for you.

The next step could be to take into account all the insights that have emerged from various studies throughout the years. In yet another review article in scientific PLOS ONE, different types of sports are compared, such as cardio training, power training, and a combination of both.

Basically, cardio is better for losing weight and waist/belly circumference than power training. Although power training is better for enhancing your lean body mass – especially your muscles. And this fat-free mass in itself had a positive effect on your resting metabolism. The combination of cardio and power training appeared to have the best effect. Also on blood pressure and cholesterol levels, for example.

In order to achieve long-term results in the area of weight loss and maintaining this lower weight, it would be best to engage in a combination of cardio and power training. Other articles reach this same conclusion as well. Currently, the range of exercises and training is so varied that you will surely find something that appeals to you. But be careful to choose something that suits your own situation, in spite of your enthusiasm and good intentions. This is important in order to prevent injuries, which would have a reverse effect on your intentions to exercise more. If in doubt, you could ask a physiotherapist for advice.

Another notorious pitfall is the difficulty we encounter to estimate correctly what we burn. And also, our tendency to reward ourselves for all our hard work. This reward is often too great, compared to our efforts. That is to say, we often overestimate our work and underestimate our reward. We are only human, after all.

Just to show you what you should do to earn your ‘reward’ of two beers and a quarter of a bag of crisps: two bottles of beer set you back 265 kcal. A quarter of a bag of natural flavoured crisps (0.25 x 225 gram) adds another 275 kcal, approximately. Together this makes 540 kcal. In order to burn this up, a man of around 80 kilos would need to cycle about three quarters of an hour at a sturdy pace. Only to neutralise the net results of the reward, nothing more.

Which means that spending half an hour on the cross-trainer at a leisurely pace does not necessarily mean that you will lose weight. It all depends on your behaviour before and after your exercises.

Key Points in This Section:

  • Exercising is beneficial to your health;
  • Exercising may help you achieve a negative energy balance, which leads to weight loss that can be maintained;
  • We tend to overestimate exercising;
  • We tend to underestimate consumption;
  • Draw up a realistic exercise plan;
  • The combination of cardio and power training appears to have the best effect on weight loss.


  1. Dohrn  et al. Accelerometer-measured sedentary time and physical activity-A 15 year follow-up of mortality in a Swedish population-based cohort. J Sci Med Sport. 2018
  2. Lee et al. Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in Relation to All-Cause Mortality: The Women’s Health Study. Circulation. 2018
  3. Shaw et al. Exercise for overweight or obesity
  4. Cochrane Systematic Review – 2006
  5. Schwingshackl et al. Impact of different training modalities on anthropometric and metabolic characteristics in overweight/obese subjects: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013
  6. Kerns et al. Increased Physical Activity Associated with Less Weight Regain Six Years After “The Biggest Loser” Competition. Obesity 2017
  7. Richtlijnen Gezondheidsraad  2017
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