New Insights on New Year’s Weight Loss Resolutions

Have you created your resolutions for the new year? Did you maybe plan to lose some weight in 2022? By stepping up the amount of exercise?

While that might seem like a great idea, a new study by the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) has found that increasing physical activity is not necessarily the most efficient way for everyone to lose weight ( 1 ).

This study is important as it sheds new light on the culture of exercise and weight loss common around the new year.

New Year’s Weight Loss Resolutions

As the year draws close, people tend to review their year and how they can improve in the new year, done majorly via new year resolutions. According to, in 2021, about 48% of Americans set specifically weight loss and exercise as new year’s resolutions ( 2 ).

According to the Medical Dictionary, exercise is a physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body ( 3 ). Exercise is a meaningful way to keep the body healthy and functioning perfectly.

Indeed, many Americans are interested in reducing their weight through dieting or exercise, which many believe to be an essential tool for achieving weight loss. The study by the IAEA brought new insights into this correlation.

Exercise and Weight Loss: The Study’s Findings

Perhaps the most crucial finding from the IAEA study is that increasing levels of activity may bring about diminishing returns in energy expenditure due to compensation of the non-activity energy expenditures ( 1 ).

Specifically, for individuals with an average Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 24.9, only 72% of the extra calories burnt from additional activity translates into extra calories burned that day. The other 28% is compensated through reduced Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE) which is energy lost due to breathing and simple day-to-day activities ( 1 ).

In other words, the study found that in persons with a normal BMI, there is a balancing out of the calories burnt during exercise due to a reduction in energy lost from other activities.

Additionally, the IAEA found that the degree of energy compensation varied significantly between people of different body compositions ( 1 ). Factors such as age, sex, and body mass influence the total amount of calories burnt during a workout.

For example, older and overweight people (BMI greater than 25) only burn half of the calories compared to people with an average weight. This means that it is more difficult for people with obesity to lose weight through exercise than people with a normal BMI.

The IAEA arrived at this using data it had compiled on the Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) of 1754 of the over 6500 adults between 1981 and 2017.


This study questions the practice of setting new year’s resolutions of exercise for weight loss, as increasing exercise levels is not necessarily the most efficient way for everyone to lose weight.

Instead, the most efficient and effective way to lose weight is to maintain a healthy, protein-rich, low-calorie diet and a balanced lifestyle of regular physical activity.

  1. Vincent Careau et al. Energy compensation and adiposity in humans. Curr Biol. 2021 Oct 25;31(20):4659-4666.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.08.016. Epub 2021 Aug 27. PMID: 34453886; PMCID: PMC8551017.
    2. (2022) What are your 2022 resolutions?
    3. Medical Dictionary (2022) Exercise.