Here, we discuss the difference between weight loss and fitness and what this means for your own training programs.
By Curtis Gee 06/05/2023
Some of the most common goals every New Year is to lose weight and get fit. These are both fantastic goals when someone wants to improve their health, but they don’t necessarily go hand in hand. While losing weight can help with fitness and focusing on fitness can aid in weight loss, the general processes of each can look entirely different. So let’s discuss what losing weight and getting fit entails, how they can help and/or hinder the other, and why it may be beneficial to pick one or the other to focus on to get the desired results.
According to the CDC, over 41% of American adults qualify as obese, which is why losing weight is one of the more common New Year resolutions. Many want to improve their health and reducing weight is a great start for a lot of people. The general focus for those who want to lose weight is going to be on improving nutrition and moving more. Intake of less sugary foods and eating more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats in proper portions is a common way to make a simple change that will push your nutrition in the right direction. Combine better nutrition with more movement and you have a solid formula for general weight loss. When talking about movement, it may not necessarily be “workout” sessions. An increase of non-exercise activity (i.e. Walking your dog, hiking, gardening, playing with your kids, etc…) has been shown to be a bigger indicator for weight loss than how hard an exercise session is. So if your goal is weight loss, eat with consideration and move more, but also know, this may not have a large impact on other aspects of fitness.
Getting fit would be another popular resolution every year, but it is often misunderstood how increasing fitness is different to losing weight. In a general sense, fitness is increasing the body’s strength, endurance, power, balance, coordination, and speed. In a specific sense, it can be related to sport performance. But at no point, does it necessarily need to be connected to weight loss. In fact, depending on the goal, weight loss could be detrimental to fitness goals (we will get into that a bit later). To increase fitness, start by identifying what the focus of the training will be. Want to run a marathon? It’s time to work on long distance endurance and strength. Or how about wanting to squat heavier and deeper? Then we work on hip mobility, core strength, and progressively overloading squats (a.k.a. safely and consistently increasing weight to your squat over an extended period of time). Just want to increase general fitness? We then make sure we are doing a combination of strength, cardio, stability, endurance, and power movements to make sure we are creating a balanced body. The goal will also guide which nutritional plan will be followed because someone who is training for body building will eat differently than someone who is preparing for a marathon, which could also be different than a weight loss plan.
While weight loss and fitness are two different aspects of health and fitness, that doesn’t mean that they have to be mutually exclusive. There could definitely be some benefits to losing weight while working on a fitness goal and vice-versa. Obviously, the more a person moves, the more calories they will burn, which in turn can help with a calorie deficit for weight loss. So things like sport performance training, cardiovascular training, or strength training can increase calories burned throughout the day. Alternatively, unless playing a sport where mass matters (powerlifting in a specific weight class or playing offensive lineman in football for example), getting an athlete to a healthy body weight can aid in performance, being careful to not take it to an unhealthy range. It could improve mobility, stability, and impact of movements on joints.
Losing weight and getting fit can both be very beneficial health and fitness goals which are often paired together, even though sometimes they do not always go together. Weight loss happens with proper nutrition (calorie deficits) and moving more. Fitness happens with a combination of a focused exercise program and nutritional plan that is created specifically towards the performance goals. While there are benefits to working towards both at the same time, those just starting on their journey may find more success with one main goal first and then shifting focus as goals change. So if you, these are your goals, assess which is more important at the moment and readjust accordingly to your progress.
Written by Curtis Gee, Elite Personal Trainer
Curtis has been teaching, coaching, and educating since before he could drive. Starting with youth and high school sports, leading to teaching and helping at-risk high schoolers graduate, to most recently, working with athletes and adults to achieve their health, fitness, and sporting goals.
When not at the gym training others or working on his own fitness, Curtis is an avid gamer, basketball junkie, and enjoys martial arts movies.