Weight-Neutral Benefits of Exercise & Nutrition

We live in a culture that conflates improving health and fitness with losing weight, so it’s easy to understand why so many of us (maybe even you) pursue the latter when all we really want is the former.

One of the reasons I don't offer weight loss is that there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating that leanness or weight loss prevents, treats or cures health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (and there is evidence that carrying more weight is actually health-protective). However, there is a growing body of research (like this study and this study) showing that balanced exercise and nutritional practices can offer significant physical and mental health benefits without needing to lose a single pound. This is great news for those of us who just want to increase our fitness, feel good and get on with enjoying our lives.

Here is just a partial list of proven perks and motivating aspirations to inspire your own health and fitness goals: 

Evidence-Based Benefits of Exercise: 

  • Elevate mood, improve cognitive function and concentration

  • Improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure

  • Increase stamina, strength, suppleness, muscle mass and bone density

  • Improve performance in activities of daily living, hobbies and/or sports

  • Improve balance 

  • Increase flexibility and joint range of motion

  • Decrease risk of early death and delay of death by all causes

  • Increase libido and improve sexual function

  • Decrease stress hormones

  • Improve sleep quality

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Reduce cholesterol

  • Improve digestion

  • Stabilize blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day

  • Reduce food cravings and ravenous hunger

Reasonable and Attainable Health, Fitness and Nutritional Goals:

  • Make enjoyable movement part of your regular routine

  • Add-in more nutrients like protein, fiber (instead of subtracting food groups)

  • Reduce or eliminate the use of some medications 

  • Master a strength-based skill (e.g. push up, chin up, deadlift)

  • Climb a flight of stairs without getting winded

  • Carry all the groceries to the house in one trip

  • Touch your toes

  • Learn a new dance style or routine

  • Hike a trail

  • Keep up and play with your grandchildren

  • Relieve low back pain

  • Move with more agility and more suppleness

  • Improve your posture

  • Regular bowel movements

  • Have more stable energy throughout the day

  • Be more focused and productive  

  • Expand your palate and menu to include new nutritious foods

  • Increase self-confidence 

Your fitness program should support the activities you care about most, not compete with them. I hope these lists inspire you to home-in on your meaningful why for starting a fitness program.

I'm Emiko Jaffe, a weight-neutral fitness coach. If you found this piece helpful, I invite you to subscribe to Sunday Coffee, my newsletter about fitness, culture, being more of who you are and doing more of what you love (all through a weight-neutral, non-diet lens, of course). ⁠

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