Obesity is a global epidemic that threatens kids and adults alike. Because it’s more visible than other diseases, it’s impossible to avoid input from others about the medical complications it causes, the “right” habits that reverse it, and the importance of changing it. However, if you are already diagnosed as obese and have struggled to lose weight for years, you probably know that the solution isn’t as simple as exercising more often.

If you work out regularly but still can’t seem to reach your target weight, it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong; you may just be seeking the wrong solution altogether. Recent medical studies about exercise and obesity are making global headlines, and confirming what many obese people have already suspected to be true: that exercise isn’t actually an effective way to cure obesity.

The Myth: Exercise Cures Obesity

About 2 billion people are overweight on this planet, and more than half a billion of them are technically obese. As this demographic grows, it’s no surprise that gym memberships, home exercise equipment, and fitness apps get more lucrative every year. However, despite the prevalence and accessibility of these exercise aids, obesity remains a serious problem in the United States and many other developed countries.

If you believe that inactivity always causes obesity and activity always reverses it, it’s easy to assume that millions of people just aren’t trying hard enough. As technology advances and lifestyles change, human beings in general do spend more time sitting in front of screens. However, exercise is also more attainable and affordable thanks to the same innovations. From free YouTube yoga channels to pricy, wearable fitness trackers, there are plenty of options for people who want to exercise more. So, why is obesity still an epidemic?

The Reality: Exercise Is Ineffective

If you’re looking to exercise to reverse your weight problems, it might be time to look elsewhere. The Washington Post recently published the findings of a growing body of evidence which suggests that sedentary lifestyles aren’t actually to blame for the American obesity epidemic. Recent medical studies also chip away at common misconceptions about weight and its relationship to exercise.  

Weight Usually Comes Back

When people exercise to lose weight, they often have inconsistent results. Unfortunately, the majority of people who try to lose weight – about 95 percent, according to a psychology study at the University of Minnesota – put the pounds back on within five to ten years. A strict, intense exercise regimen may seem to melt the pounds away at first, but long-term weight loss is a challenge that exercise alone can’t conquer.

Exercise Makes You Healthy, Not Skinny

Of course, exercise is important for your cardiovascular health and it releases stress-reducing chemicals that improve your mental state too. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, physically active people are less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even some types of cancer. However, despite the hype, the same journal found that activity alone is not actually an effective way to lose weight.

What Does Work?

It makes sense that experts would shy away from spreading this information. People tend to favor immediate rewards over long-term benefits and may not put in as much time and effort if they can’t see and feel the results. It’s definitely important to develop a well-rounded approach to your overall fitness, and you can start by learning how to incorporate methods that actually do lead to weight loss.

Balanced Diet

The National Health Services (NHS) has advice you’ve probably heard before: obese patients need to supplement their exercise regimens with balanced diets in order to lose weight. If you focus on eating well, you’ll get the nutrients you need to fight off illness and reduce your health risks. You may also lose weight by converting the calories you consume into physical energy.

Diet doesn’t just make exercise more effective, though; it’s actually more effective than exercise. The New England Journal of Medicine published an obesity study that revealed diet alone was more effective than a combination of diet and exercise. According to researchers, people who exercised were actually more likely to stay obese than those who simply ate better.

Weight Loss Surgery

Even if you work out and eat well, genetic conditions or other health problems may make it harder (and nearly impossible) to lose weight. And if the complications of your obesity are severe and immediate, you may not have time to wait for gradual changes. Bariatric surgery is an effective way to get real results, and there are a variety of different surgical methods to achieve success.

During traditional gastric sleeve surgery, your stomach will actually become physically smaller, reducing your future food intake. A gastric bypass reroutes your food instead, and gastric band surgery adds an adjustable way to shrink your stomach’s capacity. Gastric sleeve plication surgery is a less invasive option, during which the stomach tissue is folded instead of physically removing it.

When pursuing weight loss surgery, it’s important to receive treatment from knowledgeable weight loss specialists. Bariatric surgeon Dr. Lopez Corvala at Angeles Hospital is considered to be among the top ten weight loss surgeons in the world. The majority of bariatric patients lose weight within six months to a year, though the speed of results depends on the specific procedure and individual health factors.  

Fight Obesity At Its Source

People who suffer from obesity deserve health and happiness, not shame or misinformation. If you struggle with obesity, your fight will continue until you find an effective solution, and exercise alone won’t cut it. Work smarter, not harder, and eliminate obesity by pursuing a healthy diet and surgical weight loss options.