Do I Have To Exercise To Lose Weight?

Published on 
May 31, 2024
May 31, 2024
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

Ask Theresa is a weekly advice column by Theresa Link. A Virta Health Coach since 2015 and a loyal follower of the ketogenic lifestyle, Theresa is a Registered Dietitian who is an expert in living a metabolically-healthy life. 

This week, Theresa dives into the sweaty (or not so sweaty) world of exercise. Though not required to shed pounds or reach your metabolic health goals in the context of a well formulated ketogenic diet, exercise still packs a punch for sprucing up your life quality. Read on for Theresa’s tips on how to choose the type of exercise that vibes with you! 



I’m 38 pounds down since starting Virta in November. I am loving the weight loss, but I’m wondering if I should start exercising. Will it help me lose more weight? What kind of exercise should I be doing?



👩🏻‍💻 Theresa

Dear Bewildered,

Congrats on your weight loss! It sounds like you’re really thriving and looking for more healthy habits to enhance your existing routine. At Virta, we emphasize the transformational power of carbohydrate restriction in order to achieve nutritional ketosis, which encompasses a whole host of benefits on its own. Exercise, as it turns out, is not required for weight loss, reduced blood sugar, improved energy or even enhanced sleep quality. What’s more, you can reverse diabetes without it.

But should you?

Well, it depends on where you are in your Virta journey. If you’ve recently started making dietary changes, I might suggest prioritizing nutrition over exercise at this point, especially if you’re not already exercising. Taking on too much at once may actually hinder your efforts. 

If you’re a veteran on your Virta journey, first ponder a few questions: are you trying to jump higher, run faster, or audition for American Ninja Warrior like my 72 year old mom? Do you want to sharpen your cat-like reflexes so you can sprint toward that FREE BACON! sign without throwing your back out? Or maybe you just want to quiet the grunts and groans that escape your mouth with every attempt to get off the couch. These, among others, are great reasons to add exercise to your routine.

Again, exercise is not required to reach your metabolic health goals. That said, for me, exercise has really enhanced my quality of life. With its vast array of forms and styles, there's surely an activity out there that will make you feel your best, too!

It should be [mostly] enjoyable

Show of hands: who's been tormented by a stair stepper? Yes, that relentless escalator to nowhere. I see my local gym-goers sweating and cursing under their breath with every miserable step. Maybe they enjoy it, but I have serious doubts. Pop in a VHS tape of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies and I’m a happy camper. A hike in the woods on a crisp, fall day rejuvenates me as well. Maybe goat yoga? Or a hip hop dance class for adults? Whatever you like! As long as you move your body, you can’t lose. But if the exercise of your choosing feels like punishment, it won’t be long before your recliner reigns victorious. So make it fun!

It should make you feel good

“No pain, no gain” should be a phrase we permanently delete from our vocabulary. Sure, experiencing some burn as you feel the lactic acid pulsing through your veins reminds you that you’re alive. But exercise should never cause you actual pain. Ever heard of endorphins? We release those when we move our bodies around for a while, and they make us feel good. So good that we want to keep moving our bodies!

It should complement, not contradict, your already healthy lifestyle

Whoever first coined the phrase, “you can’t outrun a poor diet” really made us all begrudgingly question that third chocolate glazed doughnut. Indeed, no amount of exercise can cancel the effects of consistently unhealthy eating habits. Like many of us, I tried the “cancel out”  approach in my twenties when my metabolism was lightning fast, and truthfully, it was effective at the time. Problem is, this mindset sets the stage for a harmful relationship with your body. It’s taken me a long time to heal from that so I could embrace food as nourishment and exercise as a celebration of what my body can do. 

At the end of the day, if your body wants to move more, listen to it. Don’t fall for the line that you have to flip tires or run a half marathon in order to get the benefits of exercise. Just do what feels good!

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

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