Why Working Out Can Halt Weight Loss

You exercise but you don't lose weight. What's up with that?

Working out and still can’t lose weight? New research may help explain why women who exercise can still have trouble shedding pounds.

"Exercise is a very interesting dilemma for a lot of people who want to lose weight,” explains Dr. Ken Fujioka, the Director of the Scripps Clinic Center for Weight Loss.  “On the one side, it clearly gets you to burn more calories.  On the other side, for many people, particularly women it's going to increase your desire to eat.” 

Dr. Fujioka says exercise sets in motion various hormones that make you want to eat.  And that affects women most, because a woman's metabolism is almost a third slower than a man's.

"So little changes like wanting to eat more from exercise would be enough to slow their weight loss and they might not be happy," says Dr. Fujioka.

But science is now helping weight loss doctors understand what we can do about that.  The first thing is no surprise: eat healthy food.

“If you eat the right food, you actually get satisfied quicker," Dr. Fujioka says.  "So as long as you make good choices you'll come out negatively when it comes to calories in the end."

Dr. Fujioka says if you really want to lose or maintain weight, you really have to push the heart rate up when you exercise, getting it to around 85% of maximum.

Personal trainer Dawn Celapino agrees, saying most women simply don’t work hard enough.

"I see women in the gym talking to their friends lifting five pounds,” says Celapino.  "If you can walk on a treadmill or you can walk on a Stairmaster and read a book, you're not walking hard enough."

Dr. Fujioka says, if you take walks for exercise, you’d better find some hills.  Celapino favors interval training to get your heart rate up high enough.  It’s the basis for her fitness bootcamp here in San Diego called “Leash Your Fitness,” at which people are encouraged to bring their dogs to the workouts. 

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