The fact is, humans can only burn 10 calories per minute (maximum) during exercise. Conversely, each pound of unwanted body fat contains 3500 calories. Based on your perspective, for exercise to create fat loss you would have to exercise for a total of 350-minutes to lose just one pound of fat – and that’s if you utilize only fat for fuel during the activity.
Thankfully, human physiology is more complex than simply crunching caloric numbers. Recent research shows that exercise has a far more pronounced effect on the metabolism than previously suspected. For instance, a study by Dr. Susan Votruba at the University of Wisconsin has showed that daily exercise will increase fat utilization for the rest of the day. These researchers showed that performing intense (rather than moderate or low intensity) exercise ensures the body continues to burn fat at an elevated rate for the rest of the day.
Scientists from the University of Kansas completed a fascinating study that examined the effects of long-term exercise and calorie expenditure.* These researchers examined a group of obese subjects who exercised fairly vigorously (75% of maximum), five days a week for six months. The researchers discovered that although the subjects work capacity gradually increased throughout the study, the subjects total calorie expenditure during each session didn’t change much. However, the subjects continued to lose weight.
So how did these people continue to lose weight while burning virtually the same amount of calories every day? The accumulative effect of intense exercise ensured a progressive increase in their resting metabolism over the long term.