EXERCISE: Instead of exercising to "burn... - Weight Loss NHS

Weight Loss NHS
105,100 members54,961 posts


PB302020 June

Instead of exercising to "burn" calories, would it not be better to consume the correct amount of calories?

I think too much emphasis is put on exercise. I used to be a marathon runner, a tri-athlete and a lifeguard. Now I am riddled with arthritis.

11 Replies

PB30 Many people rely upon their ability to be "mobile and active" to maintain and lose weight.

So many people come to these boards complaining that they have been doing hours of exercise and aren't losing weight - they appear to have little understanding that their calorie intake also needs to be examined.

Those of us who are losing weight without the ability to exercise or even mobilise will start to understand the importance of working out how many calories we burn.

I am disabled, have been from birth, use a wheelchair outside of the house, am short and very sedentary in my daily life.

Just staying alive (so even if we lay/sit still or are asleep, the body is "burning" calories - the "background calories")

A clear understanding of what our body needs to function is essential - both in terms of calories and nutrition.

An understanding that if we eat rubbish, we will feel rubbish....

In my experience of losing weight through diet alone, the things I have come to realise are:

I need to eat smaller portions

I need to cut out calorific treats and snacks

I need to weigh out food - guessing doesn't work

I need to log everything I eat, as once it's written down, I am able to keep track of the calories I am consuming.

I am 56 years old, only 4ft 8" tall, very sedentary.... and I am missing many of the major BIG muscles in my body (thighs, arms). The MUSCLE is the real power house of the body and they are what burn calories in a work out.

In conclusion, I can't eat much. I need to eat nutritious, filling and healthy foods as part of my low calorie allowance (1,200 just to MAINTAIN my current weight).

BUT.... that doesn't mean the end of the world or misery....

In fact I am healthier, fitter, in less pain, sleeping better and happier than I have ever been.

If I have any regrets, it's that I didn't discover where I was going wrong when I was a teenager! :-)

CockneyblueRestart August 2020 in reply to Pineapple27

You did a good video Pineapple, shows how to exercise really well without impact 👍👍

Pineapple274 stone in reply to Cockneyblue

Thanks Cockneyblue :-) and for me, exercise is about maintaining and improving flexibility, core fitness, strength and above all.... my mobility (which is minimal, but I do have some!)

Are you a Chelsea supporter btw...?? :-)

CockneyblueRestart August 2020 in reply to Pineapple27

I’ve married and moved near Birmingham, my husband is a Birmingham City fan which we both used to go, so my nephew, who is Brum, nicknamed me CockneyBlue. I think it’s a very good mix. 🤣

Pineapple274 stone in reply to Cockneyblue

Ah! Ok. My hubbie is a Magpie :-)

Hidden9st 7lbs

Hi PB30 - when you say too much emphasis is put on exercise - can you elaborate what you mean by this? Who puts too much emphasis on it?

Being around this forum for a while and read a lot of posts where members have given advice, and i'd say the emphasis is generally on healthy eating over exercise.

A little exercise is always advisable for those capable but it's definitely making the right choices with food that will help the most.


It's a bit more complicated than that. The aim of exercise is not to "burn calories", but to keep your body working properly.

If anything, your sporting history has delayed your arthritis, although it might not feel like that. Rheumatoid arthritis is now recognised as an autoimmune condition, not mechanical damage, and statistically speaking at least, people who work out, run, cycle etc have more mobility in their later years than people who didn't. Nobody knows what causes arthritis, but it doesn't seem to be exercise as such.

As for eating the "correct" amount of calories, this happens naturally as long as you don't consume foods that mess up your appetite. Your body is equipped with perfectly good control systems that manage its energy input, output, and storage partitioning. The idea that we all have to have food metered into our bodies is just bizarre; no human (or animal, for that matter) has ever needed to do this in the last two million years, yet nobody seems to be asking why it's (apparently) necessary today.

S11m in reply to IvanTheHorrible

Hi, IvanTheHorrible

It might be a gross over-simplification, but I thought that running/dancing/gymnastics helped children build bone density, and tended to cause joint problems in adults.

Many of the old people who damaged their knees by running did so before the arrival or good trainers, that reduced the shock-loading... so the situation might be changing.

I know that many old cyclists changed to cycling after damaging their knees running.

Two million years ago I think we were all on a Paleo diet, and life expectancy was 30 years?

...but the problem has got much worse in the last 50 years, presumably due to junk food and lack of exercise?

IvanTheHorribleMaintainer in reply to S11m

I'm not suggesting there's no such thing as mechanical damage - of course there is. I'm sure it's possible to mess up your joints by over-using them or through repeated injury. High-impact exercise on growing joints ... yeah, possibly not good. But that sort of thing doesn't usually develop into generalized arthritis (which seems to be what the PB30 is describing).

I'll see if I can dig out a paper I read about runners and knee health. It was a very simple survey of old people asking about their prior history of running or not running. It turned out that old codgers who run, or did run, have slightly better knee health (on the average) than people who never did.

Of course that general statistical result doesn't preclude the possibility of any specific runner developing bad knees, due to whatever combination of factors, or of a specific couch potato having great knees. It just suggests that whatever running does to you, it's not a simple matter of more impact = more damage. Usually. It might be that some people are not built for heavy exercise and aren't able to repair joint-capsule damage very effectively, but I'm just speculating here.

Life expectancy was 30 years back in the bad old days because people had an unfortunate habit of killing each other :)

Hard to tell if arthritis is really any worse than it ever was. The crippled-old-crone is a stock character in fiction old and modern, so presumably we're always been prone to it to a certain extent. Have you seen any data about this? I can't say I've looked into it much.

It's only a popular health blog (which just happened to come up on the first page of a Google search) but there's some more commentary on the subject here:


Interestingly, I notice this mocks "couch-to-5k" programmes, arguing that people who are disastrously unfit shouldn't attempt any such thing, at least not on a short timescale. The NHS promotes a 9-week version!

S11m in reply to IvanTheHorrible

It is difficult to produce meaningful data - especially as most people who try to, know what they are trying to prove and, as you say, "Draw the target around the bullet hole".

...of course, not all knee/leg problems are arthritis.

I was an endurance athlete, and I cycled 760 miles (Paris-Brest-Paris) in 90 hours in 1995.

I have had heart problems, and I was disabled for a few years.

I was able to lose a pound a week when I was disabled.

Exercise is beneficial... if you have the physical capability.

I am not training for a marathon, and how much exercise is optimal for best life expectancy?

Now I am walking 10,000 steps a day (50km/week) and I think I could easily lose two pounds a week, but I am eating more and continuing to lose one pound a week.

You may also like...