Couch Potatoes Rejoice: You Don’t Need That Much Exercise To Lose Weight

Sure, we all dread dragging ourselves out of bed to hit the gym from time to time. But for some of us, that dread never really goes away. If that’s the case and you truly hate exercise, you’ll love this new study that says you can get away with working out less–while losing more weight.

Published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers from the University of Copenhagen have couch potatoes rejoicing after saying that working out for 30 minutes is just as effective for losing weight and staying fit as working out for 60 minutes. In fact, they say that working out for half the time could yield even more weight-loss benefits. OK, now we’re talking.

In the study, researchers followed 60 overweight, yet healthy men for 13 weeks. Half of the participants exercised for 30 minutes a day while the other half exercised for 60 minutes a day. They were told to excise to a “light sweat” on a treadmill and increase the intensity three times a week. Their effort and activity was monitored with a heart-rate monitor and calorie counter.

By the end of the study, scientists discovered that, while the reduction in body mass was essentially the same for both groups, those who worked out for 30 minutes lost more weight than those who worked out twice as long.

Researcher and PhD student for the Department of Biomedical Sciences, Mads Rosenkilde, explained:

Participants exercising 30 minutes per day burned more calories than they should relative to the training program we set for them. In fact we can see that exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat. The men who exercised the most lost too little relative to the energy they burned by running, biking or rowing. 30 minutes of concentrated exercise give equally good results on the scale.

In a world where we are conditioned to believe that more is more, this result is admittedly puzzling. How exactly can someone lose more weight when they only exercise half the time? Well, the scientists theorize that the 30-minute group had more desire and energy for their workouts because half an hour felt so doable to them. Meanwhile, the 60 minute group likely ate more and didn’t feel the need to work out as hard. In other words, when you only have 30 minutes to exercise, you are likely to be more motivated and work harder, while also having more energy to stay active for the rest of the day.

We have to say, we kinda love this! Anything that helps to get more people feeling like exercise is doable and not so intimidating is good news in our books.

What do you think? Does this change the way you look at exercise?




Share This Post:
    • L

      I’m only responding to this crappy excuse of an article because as a scientist, it makes my blood boil when I see you guys post this kind of BS without doing any research whatsoever…just because the original morons ScienceDaily did it, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. I guess I can understand that you probably don’t have free access to PubMed and are not willing to spend 30$ and a good chunk of your day reading through unfamiliar jargon, but I find it appalling that you can’t so much as use your critical thinking skills and COMMON SENSE to perhaps come up with some discussion generating points.
      Now my specialty is by no means metabolic mechanisms dealing with energy regulation, but having given this article a moderate amount of attention, there are a couple of red flags…so much so that I cannot believe this actually made it into J Phys. The biggest of all is that either they are lying about their data, or someone effed up their graphs because no way is there a statistical difference when error bars overlap. So someone dropped the ball on that. In terms of the actual study, the article you reference says they follow 60 men. Yeah. Total. That means less than 25 men per group (this would be OK if the study was done on rodents in a controlled lab environment where you can actually monitor how much activity they are doing/how much food and water they are consuming…but not on people). This number comes out to even less when you take into account the troubles they came into when actually collecting data: 5 subjects were not analyzed due to lack of compliance with food records; 4 subjects did not receive diet delivery due to time constraints; 5 Subjects were not analyzed due to equipment malfunction (Table 1).

      The way they present their data is also shady—Table 1 gives average stats (things like BMI, fat mass, fat free mass, waist circumference) for the men in each group BEFORE but not AFTER the program. The men doing 60 min of exercise weigh less, have less fat mass, a significantly smaller BMI, and a smaller waistline to begin with… They show no break down for after the study. It’s also incredibly strange they quantify “fat free mass,” which according to google takes in all the other non fat components of the body, instead of muscle….since chances are the men that were working out more also had more muscle. And big surprise—muscle weighs more than fat. Again, I don’t understand how this made it past reviewers into such a good quality journal.

      I could keep going, but I’m guessing you get my point. Please get your facts straight before you spew kind of nonsense.

    • Erynn

      *backs away slowly from above comment* Aaanyway…

      Well I am not a scientist but I do have personal experience! So I will say this, and that is that for me losing a bunch of weight happened when I just started doing more stuff on my feet in general. Before I even was much of a runner, the fact that in college my lifestyle had changed such that I was up walking a lot, running errands, generally just not sitting around all day was the big thing. (Keeping in mind, I went from almost totally sedentary, to just doing little things all day, but being up.) As I lost more weight I started having to do more working-out-y type stuff, as the science would suggest I would have to, but it’s also not like I lived at the gym or anything. For a long time I just went for a 20 min run every day (now I go twice that and I dance and stuff, just because I love the feeling!) and I still lost weight.

      Anyway I guess where I’m going with this is that I think there is some truth to this article and so people who hate working out should take some encouragement from it. Little changes lead to bigger ones down the line and if working out a little bit each day makes you feel great, don’t be bummed at yourself for not wanting to/being able to do 2 hours of cardio twice a day, because you don’t really need to anyway…