Can You Lose Weight without Exercise?

By Laura High @healthwriter61
December 29, 2017
overweight African American woman standing on scale at doctor's office, smiling, happy. 
Source: 85103,PWS_BLP0020114

Do you need to hire a personal trainer or join a gym to find your slimmer self? Are there ways to learn how to lose weight without exercise?

Most people understand the idea that we need a certain amount of energy, which comes in the form of calories, to support basic bodily functions and activities. When the amount of energy taken in through food and drink is the same as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) you achieve what is known as energy balance and your weight remains stable. Therefore, if you want to lose weight simply create a caloric deficit by taking in fewer calories, or cause your body to burn more energy by increasing your daily activities, or devise some combination of both.

So yes, you can lose weight without exercise. But there are a number of reasons why for many people it isn’t that simple. Furthermore, as just about anyone will tell you, the hardest part is keeping the weight off.


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How does a body use energy?

It’s helpful to understand more specifically what energy is needed for. It’s generally accepted that 60 to 70 percent of the daily calories we need to maintain energy balance is used by internal organs to perform normal bodily functions. The energy required to run your body is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR, also called resting metabolic rate). These automatic functions are coordinated by our autonomic nervous system, which we don’t have conscious control over, so there’s little we can do to significantly alter how much energy these functions require.

An additional 10 percent of TDEE is used to digest, extract, mobilize, store, and utilize nutrients from our food. Again, there’s little we can do to alter how much energy this takes.

The remaining 20 to 30 percent of TDEE is used to support activity, which can be exercise, which is intentional and repetitive, or non-exercise, such as cleaning or yard work. It’s clear that our activity level is an area of energy expenditure that each of us has control over.


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April 09, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN