A popular question we get asked is if it is possible to lose weight without actively doing any exercises.
And the answer is always, YES, it is possible.
I’m going to explain to you in this article why the possibility exists, how you can make it a reality and why actively working out may not be the best way to lose weight sometimes.
So, let’s start with the most important thing to note.
How To Actually Lose Weight: The One Requirement
To understand weight loss, you need to understand that is not caused by “exercise” or “diet” in the broader sense of the word.
Losing weight is a result of being in a consistent caloric deficit.
Exercise and diet are simply the means we use to support and maintain that deficit. I’ll explain it further for you…
Calories In versus Calories Out
- Calories In
Calories are in everything you drink and eat. Not including water, every drink and food you consume contains some degree of calories that is added to your daily caloric intake.
As these are the calories being consumes and are processed in your body, they are known as your “calories in”.
- Calories Out
Everything you do causes you to burn calories. Whether it’s cardio or weight training, or just doing simple daily tasks such as talking, brushing your teeth or just standing, be assured that you are burning some calories.
And here’s a fun fact, your body burns a good number of calories daily all on its own by just keeping you alive and functioning properly through digesting food, pumping blood, breathing etc.
These calories that you are burning or losing are generally referred to as “calories out.”
When your calories in is the same as the number of calories you burn, (calories in = calories out), then you will be maintaining your current weight. This is called your maintenance level.
Therefore, if you should consume more calories than you burn, calories in > calories out, then the remaining calories that you didn’t burn will be stored in the body for later use usually in the form of fat.
This state is referred to caloric surplus and it is the main cause of fat gain.
On the flip side, consuming less calories than you actually burn, calories in < calories out, will cause your body to use up the stored fat for energy instead.
This state is referred to as caloric deficit and it is the main cause of fat loss.
Simply put, your goal to lose weight will be highly dependent on you eating in a consistent caloric deficit.
So, where does exercise and diet come into play?
Let me tell you.
3 Ways To Create Your Caloric Deficit
There are three known ways to create your required caloric deficit….
- Diet: Eating Fewer Calories
For example, say your maintenance level is 2400 calories, eating 1800 calories daily would put your body into a 600 calorie deficit which will result in you losing weight.
- Exercise: Burning More Calories
If you eat 2400 calories daily but burn 600 additional calories by any form of exercise, then that 600 calorie deficit would exist, therefore, you would lose some weight.
- Diet + Exercise: A Combination Of Both
Using the same example, say you eat 200 less calories and burn 400 more, then your calorie deficit would be 600 calories, leading to some weight loss.
What is the meaning behind all this?
I say all that to show you that your body needs to be in a constant caloric deficit to lose weight. For you to put that deficit in action, you must either eat a little less (diet only), burn more calories (exercise only), or combine the two methods (diet + exercise).
So this takes us back to the main question.
How Do You Lose Weight Without Working Out?
Are you ready for the answer?
Here it is…..You can lose weight without exercise by creating a consistent calorie deficit through your diet alone.
It is so simple, right?
You can forego working out to burn more calories and instead, create your calorie deficit by eating a little less progressively.
How much less you ask? At least 20% below your body’s maintenance level is a good point of origin.
I know what you might be thinking.
Isn’t Exercise Always The Key To Losing Weight?!?
It has always been known that the key to weight loss is the body being in a calorie deficit, which you can accomplish with or without exercise.
As a matter of fact, studies have shown, that once everything else is equal, the results will be the same despite the means by which the individual creates the deficit i.e. diet + exercise or diet alone.
This is because a deficit is just a deficit.
This Might Actually Surprise You…
But, in my opinion, diet alone is the most effective means of weight loss versus exercise. Keep in mind that I’m looking at it from the perspective of weight loss only to create a deficit. I usually prefer to use this method personally.
In comparison, exercise is a crappy way to lose weight.
4 Reasons Why Exercising For Weight Loss Is A Waste Of Time
Let me just highlight that I’m not saying exercise is bad for you. I am just saying that for weight loss, it sucks and there is a big difference that I will get to in a minute.
But first, let me tell you why working out to lose weight or gain a calorie deficit is not always necessary.
1. Exercise Doesn’t Burn As Many Calories As You Think Does
The typical cardio, which is the exercise an average person does to burn fat, done at the typical intensity will usually burn between 5-10 calories a minute.
The possibility to burn more calories increases with the higher intensity of the activity and the individual will probably burn more if they have more weight since a bigger body will burn more calories than a smaller one.
The average estimate, however, is 5-10 calories a minute.
Just reflect on that for a second.
Say you do 30 minutes on a treadmill. You will most likely burn roughly 150-300 calories. You complete an hour on the bike. The calorie loss will probably range between 300-600.
What am I getting at?
Well the thing is, while you will certainly be burning some calories, the fact remains that you will not burn as much calories as you hope to. Even while keeping in mind EPOC or afterburn.
This is another aspect of exercise that causes a lot less calorie burn that most people think it does.
All this means is that for you to really experience significant calorie burn then you will need to do a whole lot of cardio with preferably higher intensity quite often.
And that my dear, comes with its pros and cons.
2. It Could Cause People To Overeat
Let me tell you what happens usually, partly because of what we just talked about.
An individual will do some variation of exercise to burn calories or lose weight and they will naturally assume that they burned lots of calories in the process.
However, in reality, they burned way less than they actually think they did.
The unfortunate part is that they don’t realize it.
And as a result of thinking that they burned a lot of calories during workout, this reward mentality is activated and the person thinks that because they ran 30 minutes on the treadmill they can afford to eat an additional 1200 calorie meal.
They do this not realizing that they really only burned 200-300 calories. Therefore, they cancel out the deficit they would have created when they worked out and likely put their body into a calorie surplus.
That is why you may at times hear people complain that they are working out consistently but are not losing weight or they are gaining weight.
3. It Is Very Inefficient
Less convenient, definitely harder and less sustainable.
Think about it this way; say a person needs to create a calorie deficit of 500 daily.
Which of the two ways do you think would be a more efficient way of doing it?
- Eating 500 less calories which takes literally no time to achieve and can conveniently be done anywhere?
- Or by hitting the gym and running 50-60 minutes on the treadmill, if not daily then may 3-4 times weekly?
Surely, your answer must be number 1.
It is typically much more sustainable and convenient to eat fewer hundred calories less daily to create a deficit than to work off the same amount of calories through exercise.
And yes, I know that doing HIIT will burn much more calories in less time than low to moderate intensity activities such as walking or jogging would, therefore, it would be more efficient.
But bear in mind that it is still not as efficient as eating fewer calories would be and doing HIIT is much harder to complete and takes a lot of mental and physical effort consistently to make it happen.
4. It Is Completely Optional
And we get to the most relevant point of the question being discussed in the article, and that is, how to lose weight without exercise.
This question implies that exercise is a prerequisite to losing weight.
IT IS NOT.
Although exercise definitely has its purposes and benefits, it is not actually a requirement to lose weight. It is optional.
Calorie deficit is what is truly needed to accomplish weight loss and that you can achieve with diet alone.
So the people who use the excuse that they don’t have time to exercise as a reason for staying overweight no longer have a valid excuse.
Not that they are to be blamed really since it is a general assumption that you need to work out to lose weight and if you are not able to do so then you are out of luck. The problem with this idea is that it’s a complete lie.
The 3 MAIN Things To Remeber
Are you still with me? Great! Let’s move on to the three big take away points from this article…
#1: You DO NOT Need To Exercise To Lose Weight
A consistent caloric deficit is the only thing you need to lose weight. And that, my friend, can and should be used through diet.
It is more efficient, much easier and more sustainable than using exercise to create your deficit.
Feel free to use a combination of the two of course, if that is your preferred method but the fact remains that working out is not absolutely necessary for weight loss. Diet can get the job done quite well.
#2: “I Can’t Exercise” Is A Lame Excuse
I get questions and comments daily from people who are struggling to lose weight and the most popular questions involves the incorrect idea that exercise is essential to weight loss.
The chain of conversation usually begins like this “I want to lose weight, but…” which is then followed by these reasons:
- I hate exercising.
- I don’t have the time to work out.
- I can’t afford a gym membership.
- No gyms are nearby where I live or work.
- I have an injury/overweight/completely out of shape to be able to do any physical activity at this time.
- My days are completely filled with familial/work/school commitments to find time for the gym daily.
- My apartment is too small for gym equipment.
With all these excuses, the conclusion drawn is that they are not able to exercise so they are hopeless.
They believe that exercise is NEEDED to achieve their weight loss goal and if there are hindrances to it then they won’t be able to reach it.
And who can blame them for thinking that? These do seem like legitimate reasons but in the end they are really just excuses to gain weight and remain that way.
This Isn’t A Valid Excuse
It’s easier to blame the circumstances right? You are not able exercise? Not your fault. You have legitimate reasons why you can’t lose weight. They are the ones preventing you from doing what needs to be done. Right?
Oh so very wrong.
You don’t need to exercise to lose weight and that’s the most important fact missing from these scenarios. You can accomplish your weight loss goal without doing a single exercise.
#3: You DO Need Exercise But For Other Reasons
Is exercise a requirement for losing weight? NO, it’s completely optional.
Do you need exercise to build and maintain muscles? YES, it’s needed.
Let’s step back a few paces, shall we? Do you remember when I said “I’m not saying exercise is bad for you. I am just saying that for weight loss, it sucks and there is a big difference?” This is what I meant.
While exercising for the sake of losing weight is optional and kind of crappy, it is needed for building muscles and maintaining them and that’s just the reality of it.
So, if you want to build muscles while losing weight then you should definitely include some form of exercise, preferably weight training or HIIT. You may also do cardio but it’s optional.
- Let diet alone be your means to create a caloric deficit to lose weight.
- Take on weight training to build and maintain your muscle while you are losing the weight (you don’t have to visit the gym, body weight alone can work).
- Preferably use the other forms of fat burning workouts like circuits, cardio metabolic training etc as a secondary optional tool if you reach a plateau or you feel you would rather burn extra calories using exercise rather than eat less. But it is also perfectly fine if you want to use cardio at the beginning to aid with the calorie deficit on some days.
In the end, losing weight successfully and sustainably boils down to what allows for the best caloric deficit the body can achieve, and usually for most people that’s by diet rather than exercise.