Exercising won’t help you lose weight on its own, one of the country’s leading experts has sensationally claimed.
Professor Tim Spector, a prolific dietary researcher and author, accepted that working out is ‘great’ for your overall health, especially your heart.
He even insisted that ‘we should all do it’.
But in terms of losing weight, Professor Spector argued that exercise was ‘no use on its own’. It goes against advice from health agencies across the planet who state that it is ‘key’ in beating the bulge.
Professor Spector acknowledged that while exercise as it is ‘great for your health’ and ‘fantastic for your mood’, you should not exercise alone if ‘your goal is weight loss’
Professor Tim Spector (pictured above) said that exercise has been ‘grossly exaggerated as an easy fix for our obesity problem’
Exercise – of any kind – actually plays ‘very little role in weight loss’, he stated on Steven Bartlett’s podcast The Diary of a CEO.
Professor Spector, who trained as an epidemiologist and gained fame for tracking Covid during the pandemic, said: ‘All the long-term studies show it doesn’t help weight loss…
‘It’s been grossly exaggerated as an easy fix for our obesity problem.
‘All the studies show that.
‘The only caveat to that is if you have changed your diet, improved your diet and lost some weight, maintaining some exercise does prevent it going back up again.
‘But on its own, if you don’t change your diet, it’s no use and that’s well known now by all obesity experts and the studies.’
He added: ‘It’s great for your health, I exercise. It’s fantastic for your mood, it’s great for your heart.
‘We should all do it, but absolutely not if your goal is weight loss.
‘That’s a huge myth, particularly perpetuated by gyms and fitness apps. It is complete nonsense,’ he said.
Professor Spector’s comments go against some of the most-trusted health advice. ‘Being active is key to losing weight and keeping it off,’ the NHS says.
It adds that eating fewer calories will help you lose weight but keeping the flab off permanently ‘requires physical activity to burn energy’.
A calorie is a way of measuring energy — either the amount contained in food or the amount burnt through activity.
People put on weight when they consume more calories than they burn off through daily activities. To lose weight, more calories need to be used than those taken in.
As a result, limiting calories – or exercising more – are the first steps for many seeking a lean physique.
Speaking on the same podcast, Professor Spector advised that people wanting to lose weight simply look at changing their diets.
He said calorie counting, although effective in the short-term, was ‘complete nonsense’ because most people who adhere to the tedious regime ‘bounce back’.
Instead, he advised eating more plant-based foods, doing so within a 10-hour window and avoiding ultra-processed items.
Official guidelines suggest adults should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week spread over four to five days.
Examples of vigorous exercise include running, swimming, skipping and walking up stairs.
Similar advice – which also includes muscle-strengthening exercises on two days a week – exists in the US.
A lack of exercise, combined with unhealthy diets, have been blamed for growing obesity epidemics across the world.
Two-thirds of British adults are overweight, with more of us predicted to grow fatter in the future. Rates are even higher in the US.
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How should people lose weight?
Professor Tim Spector, an expert in nutrition, said some people can lose weight in the short term by limiting their calorie intake. But almost all ‘bounce back’ to their original weight and ‘many go above it’, he claimed.
He argued the approach — advocated by the NHS as one way to lose weight — is a ‘giant camouflage’ that keeps people focused on calories rather than the quality of what they’re eating.
Professor Spector shared his three tips for those looking to reach their healthiest weight:
Avoid ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods are foods that have undergone industrial processing and look nothing like the original foods they come from.
They typically contain a lot of added salt, sugar, fat, and other chemical additives.
Researchers have found that people who ate an ultra-processed diet consumed an extra 300 calories a day more than people who ate a minimally processed diet.
Tip: If you ever want to see how processed something is, look at how many ingredients there are. Generally speaking, the more ingredients, the more processed.
Try time-restricted eating
Eat all your meals in a window of ten hours, and then fast for 14 hours, most of which happens overnight whilst you sleep. Like us, our gut microbes also need to rest and recover so we can give time for the gut lining to repair. Our results from the ZOE Health Study showed this almost immediately reduces any snacking from your diet and more importantly, stopped people from snacking late at night – the worst kind of snacking for our health.
Tip: Skipping breakfast or delaying it by a few hours is the easy way to lengthen your fast.
Eat 30 plants each week
Rather than focusing on the number of calories, focus on the number of plants a week.
For people trying to lose weight, I’d recommend eating a diversity of different foods. 30 plants a week is something we should all be aiming for to improve our gut health.
Tip: Remember a plant isn’t just fruit and veg, it’s also nuts, seeds, herbs and spices so it’s easier than it looks.