Why Am I Exercising But Not Losing Weight? - Part 1: The Science Behind Exercise and Weight Loss


Are you breaking a sweat but not breaking the scale? You’re not alone. Dive into the first part of our series to uncover the surprising science that could sabotage your weight loss efforts—even if you’re hitting the gym regularly.

You’ve been hitting the gym regularly and eating a balanced diet, yet the scale doesn’t seem to budge. A common dilemma leaves many people scratching their heads: Why am I exercising but not losing weight? In this first part of a two-part series, we’ll delve into the science behind exercise and weight loss and why the two don’t always go hand in hand.

The Connection Between Stress and Weight Gain

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an unavoidable part of life for many people. While some stress can motivate, chronic stress can harm mental and physical health. One of chronic stress’s lesser-discussed but significant impacts is its role in weight gain. Understanding this relationship is crucial for anyone looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Caloric Equation

Weight loss is often simplified to a basic equation: calories in versus calories out. However, this equation needs to consider the complexities of human physiology. According to a study by Lundgren et al., exercise alone may not be sufficient for weight loss maintenance, and other factors like medication may also play a role [1].

Exercise and Metabolism

Exercise does boost your metabolism, but the increase is often less significant than one might think. A comprehensive overview by Bellicha et al. found that exercise training programs have varying effects on weight loss and body composition [2]. Some people may experience significant weight loss, while others may not see the change they anticipate with the effort they put in.

The role of hormones

Hormones like cortisol, insulin, and leptin play a significant role in how your body stores and burns fat. Exercise can influence these hormones, but the effects vary across individuals. This could explain why some people lose weight with training while others do not.

Exercise Types and Weight Loss

Regarding weight loss, it’s important to note that not all exercises are equally effective. Aerobic exercises like running and cycling are generally more effective for burning calories. The problem becomes when you start losing muscle mass. However, strength training is essential for building muscle mass and increasing your resting metabolic rate. If you choose only one thing, my advice is to hit the weights first, then do some aerobic exercises to maximise your chances to shed those pounds.

Individual Differences

A study by Parr et al. found that circulating microRNAs could influence how individuals respond to diet and exercise interventions for weight loss [3]. Genetic factors could affect how effectively you lose weight through exercise. However, it’s important to note that scientific understanding is continually evolving, and more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand their implications fully.


Exercise is undoubtedly beneficial for your overall health and well-being. However, the relationship is more complex regarding weight loss than a simple caloric equation. Hormonal responses, types of exercise, and even genetic factors can influence your weight loss journey. In the next part of this series, we will explore other factors that could be hindering your weight loss despite regular exercise.


  1. Lundgren, J., Janus, C., Jensen, S., Juhl, C., Olsen, L. M., Christensen, R. M., … & Torekov, S. (2021). Healthy Weight Loss Maintenance with Exercise, Liraglutide, or Both Combined. New England Journal of Medicine.
  2. Bellicha, A., van Baak, M. V., Battista, F., Beaulieu, K., Blundell, J., Busetto, L., … & Oppert, J. (2021). Effect of exercise training on weight loss, body composition changes, and weight maintenance in adults with overweight or obesity: An overview of 12 systematic reviews and 149 studies. Obesity Reviews.
  3. Parr, E. B., Camera, D., Burke, L., Phillips, S. M., Coffey, V. G., & Hawley, J. (2016). Circulating MicroRNA Responses between ‘High’ and ‘Low’ Responders to a 16-Wk Diet and Exercise Weight Loss Intervention. PLOS ONE.



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