Hitting the gym ‘WONT make you thin’: Exercise doesn’t help you lose weight because we burn the same amount of calories every day regardless of lifestyle, claims scientist
- Professor Herman Pontzer claims that people should instead focus on diet
- Research on hunter-gather tribe found they exert same energy as Westerners
- He explained active people divert energy to exercise from other functions
People looking to shift a few pounds before summer should put down the dumbbells because exercise does not help you lose weight, according to one scientist.
Professor Herman Pontzer claims that people should instead focus on diet because everyone burns the same number of calories regardless of our activity levels.
Ten years of research on a hunter-gatherer tribe in Tanzania found they exert the same energy each day as their less active counterparts in Western countries.
People looking to shift a few pounds before summer should put down the dumbbells and focus on diet because exercise does not help you lose weight, according to one scientist
Prof Pontzer, professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University, North Carolina, set out to compare how the historical shift to a more sedentary lifestyle has changed the amount of calories we burn.
‘The big surprise is it hasn’t,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. ‘What we’ve learnt is that we burn the same number of calories every day regardless of lifestyle. Our lifestyle determines how we burn them.’
He added: ‘Even within industrialised societies, people who are more active don’t burn more calories every day, even that’s what we’re always told.’
The scientist explained that people who are more active do burn more calories on exercise, but are spending less energy on ‘other stuff’ such as immune functioning.
Professor Herman Pontzer claims people should focus on diet because everyone burns the same number of calories regardless of our activity levels
It is generally undisputed that people lose weight by going into a caloric deficit, meaning you consume less energy than your burn.
And because, according to Prof Pontzer, exercise does not factor, people should dial in their diets to trim down.
He said: ‘If you gain weight, it’s because you bringing more calories in that you burn off… it’s very hard to move the calories you burn off in every day, so that imbalance where you gain weight must be coming for the energy in part side of the equation – what you eat every day.
‘The focus for obesity should be on diet and what we eat.’
Professor Pontzer added: ‘If you had to have one kind of food that gets you in to trouble it’s these ultra-processed foods.
‘The reason they’re so dangerous is that they give us mixtures of sweet and savoury that taste so good, but our brain does a bad job of regulating how much energy you take in because these are flavours and combinations our Palaeolithic brains aren’t evolved to handle.’
But although weight loss comes down to diet, he said exercise was still important for improving other aspects of health.
His book, Burn: The Misunderstood Science of Metabolism, comes out in March.