Is going to the gym the best way to lose weight?

30 September 2020

Fitness

Most of us will want to lose weight at some point or another. In popular imagination, there are a few good things we know to try: going to the gym is one of the most common. However, is going to the gym a good way to lose weight and, if not, what other ways might work better for you?

Is gym attendance a good way to lose weight?

In short, yes, gym attendance can be a good way to lose weight. In general, weight loss will come by creating a caloric deficit.

To cut bodyfat, simply creating a caloric deficit will usually be the only thing that will work. Roughly speaking, a daily deficit of 500 calories (so a weekly deficit of 3,500) will lead to a weekly weight loss of 1lb/0.5kg.

There are two ways to achieve this deficit.

First, eat less. Using a BMR calculator, work out how many calories your body needs each day to maintain its current weight. Subtract 500 from this number and eat that many calories. Weight loss then becomes a simple matter of arithmetic.

Second, do more. Physical activity uses energy in the form of calories. Therefore, rather than subtracting 500 calories from your maintenance, you could burn 500 calories in the gym.

However, it takes a lot to burn 500 calories (usually over an hour of intense work, every single day!) It is much easier to find a deficit through a combination of diet and exercise. For example, try to burn 350 calories in the gym three times per week, giving you 1,050 calories burned out of the 3,500. Then make up the remaining 2,450 calories through diet, eating at 350 calories below maintenance every day (2,450/7).

Gym alternatives to try

Having said this, the gym is just an accessory to weight loss. There are plenty of gym alternatives you can try.

First and foremost, we have seen that diet is more important to weight loss than exercise. Exercise is a worthwhile pursuit in its own right, but you shouldn’t count on it for weight loss. Pay far more attention to what you’re eating.

Secondly, you can burn calories from any physical exertion, not just from going to the gym. A daily, hour-long stroll around the park can have you easily hitting 200 calories. Calisthenics or aerobics classes, at home or in a group, will burn plenty of energy. Playing with the kids, going for a swim, walking to work… any way in which you can increase your activity levels will help you to lose weight.

The 30 day fitness challenge has plenty of ideas to keep you up and moving, burning through those calories.

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