A New Study Has Found that When You Exercise More, You Use Less Energy

A new study has found that physical activity has an energy spending limit. This limit doesn't increase with the intensity of your workout.

An intense workout session doesn’t mean that you’re using more energy. This is because your body is capable of adapting to any activity after a while. At least, that is what a recent study claims.

Thousands of people spend long hours working out in gyms. This is because people have always said that the more intense your workout, the more calories you’ll burn.

It’s true that physical activity is a determinant for keeping a healthy and stable weight. However, pushing too much can make it so that it’s not as effective as you may think.

This is what a recent study carried out by Herman Ponzer claims. Ponzer is a researcher at the University of New York. His study suggests that people who do high-intensity exercise burn the same number of calories as those who to moderate-intensity exercise.

The results were published in the journal Current Biology. In the journal, it says that physical activity has an energy spending limit. This limit doesn’t increase with the intensity of your workout.

This shows once again that the human body easily adapts to changes. This way, it can regulate and maintain proper energy levels.

The study

In the summer of 2010, researcher Herman Ponzer had an interesting encounter with one of the last hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa: the Hadza.

As part of this experience, he dedicated himself to studying this people’s energy usage. After all, they walked more than 6 miles every day. They also used their bodily abilities for several kinds of everyday work.


Ponzer selected a group of 30 men and women from the population. He asked them to drink a little water that was mixed with hydrogen and oxygen isotopes.

Once these atoms were given, he monitored them in the volunteers’ urine. He used this to determine their energy usage.

Energy adaptation

Out of common sense, he thought that these people would burn more calories. After all, they were more active than sedentary people in other parts of the world. The surprising thing was that he found that the difference was minimal and even null.

This is because the Hadza’s bodies were adapted to the style of life that they lived. They also have an energy balance that’s similar to urban populations.

These first findings were published in 2012 in the journal PLoS ONE. The data served as an appetizer for another study.

Energy and obesity

Ponzer’s next study appeared in Current Biology. In addition, this was also one that questioned some of the strategies that they are being used to prevent obesity.

The focuses assumed that to reduce your body mass, you need to burn more energy with high-energy physical workouts. However, many of the overweight and obese patients show that this strategy isn’t the most effective.

Before this, Ponzer and his group of researchers took data from 300 men and women for a week. He measured their levels of exercise and their diet.

In the analysis, he observed that in the beginning, physical activity and energy spending had a close relationship. However, after an amount or an intensity of exercise, the amount of energy consumed stabilized. Then, it’s only possible to burn a certain amount.

He also observed that the higher a person’s percentage of body fat was, the more energy they burned.

Analyzing the benefits of exercise

The researcher highlighted that he didn’t want his results to be a cause of confusion when talking about the benefits of exercise.  

 “We know that exercise is very important for your health and this study doesn’t change this message,” he asserted, “but we also need to pay attention to our diet”.

“Exercising can help you lose weight, but being careful of what you eat can have a much more positive impact,” he said.

He left this very important aspect clear. He also added that for right now, he doesn’t have any detailed data on the lifestyles of the volunteers that participated in the study.

However, he says that moderate exercise can even involve walking at a fast pace for a mile or two. In other words, you only need to invest a few minutes per day.

Outside of this, the authors want to start a new study to determine how the body responds to an increase in physical activity to balance the amount of energy consumed.

To do this, they intend to study the way that the human body responds to variations in activity. For instance, they might study the immune or reproductive system. This could explain the body’s process of adapting to greater physical demands.

Stay tuned for more interesting research!

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