Weight Loss Tips: Why Less Exercise is the Key to Shedding Weight

Reuters/Rick WilkingClients work out on machines at the Bally Total Fitness facility in Arvada, Colorado

Too much of anything can backfire, and that applies to healthy habits as well like exercise. An Australian best-selling author explained that going too hard at the gym may be harmful to people undergoing weight management as it causes more stress on the body. This stress prevents fat from burning.

As a nutritionist, Jessica Sepel would see clients who exercised twice a day but still couldn't lose weight. According to her, she used to be a fad dieter like them who had the tendency to over-exercise. One day, she reduced her exercises and regained her energy.

Sepel now tells her clients to cut back on intense exercises such as running and boot-camp in favor of more restorative exercises such as yoga, Pilates, and brisk walking. Those who heeded her advice felt refreshed in the morning rather than tired from exercising. More importantly, they lost weight.

The reason behind this is that the cortisol level spikes every time a person is stressed out. "Remember, your body doesn't know the difference between exercise stress and normal stress," she explained. High cortisol, regardless of the stress that caused it, makes it hard for the body to burn off fat.

"I encourage you to let go of the guilt you're feeling around exercise, and not put the pressure on yourself to be exercising every day, perfectly and intensely," she told followers of her video blog. She recommended half-hour daily exercises instead. "Maybe two sessions of interval and high intensity training per week and lots of yoga, Pilates and walking seems to be what works."

Sepel's observation on intense exercise is shared by a 2015 study which found that those who engage in intensive running had the same risk of dying as those who hardly exercised at all. What surprised the researchers, tough, was that even moderate runners had a 66 percent mortality risk. They suggest that slow running is the best exercise.