The influence of physical inactivity or overeating on weight gain

 In Exercise, Movement, Wellbeing


Overeating is essentially consuming more food than your body needs, so much so that you cannot expend the excess energy. When energy consumption exceeds energy expenditure, weight is gained.

over eating

Regardless of whether you are physically active/or inactive, if you continue to overeat (and consume more than you burn) you will not lose, but gain weight. There is also an increased consumption of food with more processed, high fat, high sugar foods coming to market.

Overeating and physical inactivity are closely linked if we consider lifestyles of the current population. This  results in weight gain…weight gain leads to a decline in physical activity and a process of self-promoting weight gain takes place.

This is the start of a vicious cycle and results in further reductions of physical activity.

  • The increase in calorie consumption in recent years is a contributing factor in the obesity epidemic.
  • Portion sizes given by outlets have increased massively, as too has the palatability. Increase in consumption is parallel with the increase in supply of calorie dense foods.
  • The economic factors involved also make it difficult for the government to intervene.
  • Overconsumption of these high fat, high sugar food means profit for organisations, depression of the satiety hormone leptin and activation of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Leptin resistance can occur when there is regular overeating and an inability to suppress appetite.


Physical Inactivity

We now live more sedentary lifestyles compared to the past. Vigorous physical activity is no longer a regular part of everyone’s day and some people don’t walk, cycle or undertake any physical activity. This can be due to a variety of factors:

  • Environmental – there are more cars and trains used as opposed to cycling or walking to work/school.
  • Entertainment – TV and computers have become staples in people’s life, which requires them to be stationary. There is now a modern day convenience with the way we can travel or order food instead of going out and buying it.
  • Convenience – Eating out instead of cooking at home is also a regular occurrence.

With the increase in calorie dense foods and the decline of physical activity, our population will continue to gain weight. The cycle will continue unless and until there is a paradigm shift at a national level.


Physical Activity

Physical activity is essential, not only for weight management, but also for optimum health, energy, raising mood, self-esteem and self efficacy, all of which are crucial if better food choices are to be made.

Many people wrongly assume that it is vigorous exercise we require, when in reality all activity, including low intensity exercise will be worthwhile in preventing weight gain.

Physical activity will help to counterbalance the natural reduction in metabolism caused by weight loss.


Is a combined approach better?

In terms of which is more of a contributing factor, it would have to be overeating.

The two factors are closely correlated and somewhat based on behavioural & environmental factors.

Even if you did exercise but continued to overeat, weight gain would occur. On the other hand, if you took part in regular physical activity but did not overeat, maybe there would be less obesity and more weight maintenance.

It is vital that a strategy that involves both increased physical activity and reduced energy intake require equal attention in any weight loss program.

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