Here’s How Exercise May Lead to Weight Gain

walking as exercise


This post comes from the field of behavioral economics. Many people exercise as part of their weight loss journey. Yet despite burning hundreds of calories, they can’t seem to shed the pounds. One assumption is that after exercise, people feel a need to compensate for their effort, and as a result they overeat. Scientists from The US and France decided to conduct an experiment to investigate.

A group of overweight women was randomly divided into two groups. Both groups were instructed to go for a 30 minute walk. After the walk, they had lunch. One group consumed more soda and dessert than the other.

What was the difference between the two groups?

  • Group A was instructed told to exercise for 30 minutes by walking and to monitor their effort.
  • Group B was told to have a fun 30 minute scenic stroll and listen to music.

Apparently, the framing of physical activity shaped the perceived need for a reward in the form of extra calories. What is the takeaway for dieters? If you view your exercise as a form of torture and punishment that needs to be slogged through to lose weight, there is a good chance you will compensate by consuming more calories than you should. But if you choose an exercise that you can actually enjoy and have fun doing, you won’t need the extra calories.

Have fun!

  • Eric

    This is stupid just reading the title gave me a good laugh. Exercise does not lead to weight gain being non dedicated towards your goals leads to weight gain.

    • Ava

      Unless your goal is to build muscle

      • Eric

        True but I’m talking about exercising strictly for weight loss

  • Utopia

    I think the link this very brief article fails to highlight is that when we are engaging in exercise, our belief is that we generally burned more calories than we actually did. Therefore at the next meal or snack there is an assumed safety net to take an extra helping or eat something less healthy and more caloric. Developing such habits would obviously lead to weight gain. Therefore exercise does not directly cause weight gain. It’s is one’s own thoughts about the exercise that cause the potential weight gain. Personally, hitting the gym elicits a stronger hunger response than if I had not excercised. It is in this moment I make sure not to dish out portions larger than needed. I have learned that despite the intense hunger signals, the same portion size generally satiates me.

  • Flamingoes

    I happen to agree with this brief and succinct article, having fallen into the “calorie compensation” trap. I altered my routine, opting for physical activities that I actually enjoy, which has ended up being its own compensation.

  • Coreyann

    Well I honestly couldn’t imagine exercising then going to eat cake afterwards. That would be defeating the purpose of me exercising. Yeah when I’m running I might want to eat pizza or something terrible for me when I’m done, but I don’t because when I get done running I’m just thinking how terrible that sounds. If you think walking for 30 minutes is going to burn you over 500 calories to compensate for you eating cake then you really aren’t dedicated to losing weight. Losing weight is going to consist of exercising and eating healthy, fruits vegetables, grains, proteins, and fats.

    • Coreyann

      Oh I forgot to mention this article was just ridiculous. I thought it was going to say something about people not eating after the exercise or something like that.

  • Capitana52

    I am a new subscriber to Fooducate. I find myself disappointed day after day with those short articles that are misleading and not very accurate. This irresponsible! This site is supposed to educate not throw doubts in the mind of the public who is already confused and mislead by the food industry.

  • joey

    I will just walk then no hard core exercise for me. I will just eat 2x more then if I push myself to the limit.

  • kitchencruizer

    Believe it or not I’ve done that. I’ve splurged on some extra calorie treat. I’ve called it an award for my hard work. But its true it’s the way you think about it. Is workout a punishment for eating to much or to get yourself healthy? Self control and self discipline is key. As well your own determination to reach your personal goal! Don’t get discourage just keep trying.