Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
Q
Just Move More to Lose Weight?

I recently heard about a study that found that if you move - not exercise, but just move around a lot during the day - you can lose a lot of weight. Can you tell me anything about this?

A
Answer (Published 11/11/2005)

You’re probably referring to a Mayo Clinic study which found that heavy people tend to sit still and that lean people tend to move around a lot. That may not seem new, but the study showed that the heavy people didn’t sit around because they were too overweight to be active. Instead, it seems that the tendency to be a couch potato is inborn. You gain weight because you don’t move much, not the other way around. The researchers found that the difference in movement between their heavy study participants and the lean ones amounted to 350 calories per day. If the heavy people could move enough to burn that number of calories, they could lose 30 to 40 pounds in a year.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness for Your Healthy Body - It's the journey not the destination. Make each day count, with an outlook that is both serene and inspired. Dr. Weil's new website, SpontaneousHappiness.com, has everything you need to get on the path to optimal well-being including recipes, checklists and exclusive tools to track your walking. Learn more, start your 10-day free trial now.

The study, published in the January 28, 2005 issue of Science, was very exacting. To make sure they measured the extent of their study volunteers’ movement correctly, the researchers attached sensors to their subjects. And to make sure that all the participants maintained the diets dictated by the researchers, dieticians prepared all their food for weeks at a time.

Sometimes, diets were devised to make the heavy subjects lose weight and the lean ones gain. But no matter what they ate or how much their weight changed, activity patterns didn’t alter – the heavy people remained sedentary even when they lost weight and the lean people remained physically active even when they gained.

No one knows if you can change an inborn tendency to be sedentary, but if you can find ways to build more movement into your life – standing instead of sitting, walking instead of driving – you may find it easier to lose weight. I also recommend learning various movement techniques like tai chi and qigong. These are great for improving balance and reducing risk of falls as well as being quite calming. You can also begin learning how to dance, do yoga – just plain fidgeting can do the trick too.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.