How to Lose Weight Without Exercising

Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Reviewed by Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 05/15/2024

There are plenty of tips on how to lose weight fast without exercise, from sketchy pills to crash diets that do more harm than good. While the age-old advice to lose weight is to exercise and eat healthy, what if you can’t workout regularly? Can you lose weight without exercise?

Weight loss without exercise is possible because there’s more to weight management than just working out. Hitting your weight loss goals involves several aspects, from what you eat to regular movement (don’t worry, we’ll explain the difference between this and exercising).

Below, we share tips on how to lose weight without exercising, including focusing on healthy nutrition, drinking plenty of water, getting quality sleep, considering weight loss medication and more.

No need to turn to Google to answer the question, “Can I lose weight without exercise?” While staying active is important to your overall health, there are simple and safe ways to lose weight without exercise.

You’re probably well aware that maintaining a healthy weight has many benefits, from reducing the chances of developing obesity to decreasing the risk of health conditions like cardiovascular issues and high blood sugar.

But if you’re just starting your weight loss journey or lack access to regular exercise, you might feel like you’ve already hit a roadblock. Those with chronic fatigue, certain health conditions or mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, may also find it difficult to get a workout in.

But you can adopt plenty of other healthy habits to manage your weight and gain those health benefits.

Several factors go into weight loss and management; physical activity is just one part of the equation.

The best part is there’s not one best way to lose weight without exercise — there are lots of things you can try, so you can find the ones that work best for you. Here are six lifestyle changes you can adopt for healthy weight loss.

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Focus on Nutrition

If you’re looking for one top tip on how to lose weight when you can’t exercise, focus on what you eat.

While no specific diet is best for weight loss, experts generally recommend a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn) and eating low-calorie foods.

But while lowering your calorie intake may work for some, a diet full of nutrients like lean proteins, fiber-rich foods like fresh fruit, veggies, whole grain carbs and healthy fats benefits everyone.

Using smaller plates may also help with portion control to reduce food intake, especially for higher-calorie foods.

You can also practice mindful eating, which is simply eating without distractions, focusing on what you’re eating and being present in the moment. This concentration on what you’re eating may help with weight loss.

High-protein diets have also been shown to effectively reduce body fat and overall body weight, as well as prevent weight from being regained after six months to a year.

While the amount of protein for weight loss varies by person, adding healthy snacks like a hard-boiled egg or Greek yogurt is an easy way to increase your protein intake and satiety, or feeling full.

Daily Movement

You thought this was a guide on how to lose weight without exercising. So why are we talking about daily movement?

Regular movement to lose weight is more than just getting in a tough hour-long workout and calling it a day. Getting lighter movement throughout your day can also have big benefits for weight loss.

Many weight loss plans recommend an average of 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week. This can be anything from walking to light yard work or anything else you enjoy that gets your heart rate up.

Additionally, NEAT exercise (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), like getting more steps in and sitting less throughout the day, could also help with weight loss, especially when paired with other healthy habits.

Hydration

Regularly drinking water can also help you lose weight, so make sure you get the average of eight glasses a day recommended for most adults.

Research shows replacing sugary beverages like juice or soda with water is one easy way to consume fewer calories, increase your water intake and help weight loss efforts.

Reduce Stress

It's easier said than done, but avoiding stress may help you lose weight. This is because your stress levels can impact your appetite and cravings.

Stress is linked to the hormone cortisol, which is linked to eating and appetite. People with higher cortisol levels are more prone to overeating, as well as less likely to do physical activity than those who have lower levels of stress.

Obesity and stress are also closely linked, creating a cycle where stress leads to overeating, which worsens the stigma around weight, which leads to more stress and more emotional eating.

Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or breathing patterns could help manage general stress, as well as stress around overeating or weight loss..

Plenty of Rest

How much sleep you get can affect your weight loss journey and even cause weight gain for some people.

Similarly to stress, poor sleep or lack of sleep may mess with your appetite by disrupting the hormones leptin and ghrelin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get seven or more hours of sleep each night. You can achieve adequate sleep by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, limiting screen time before bed and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet.

Weight Loss Medication

Some people may need the additional help of weight loss medications like metformin or Ozempic to achieve weight loss.

These weight loss injections are often prescribed off-label to someone who has obesity or excess weight with a weight-related health problem like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

Whether you use metformin or Ozempic, these drugs are often successful in helping reduce body weight when used alongside healthy habits like eating a balanced diet and regular movement.

One study found that when people without diabetes took a weekly semaglutide injection, they had an almost 15 percent average decrease in weight.

If your exercise options are limited and you’re curious about different ways to lose weight, talk to your doctor about weight loss medication benefits and whether they’re right for your health journey.

While physical activity is often touted as a way to lose weight, it’s just one of several factors in weight management. If you’re looking for simple ways to lose weight without exercise, various lifestyle changes can help.

  • Focus on your dietary choices. Eat whole foods and increase your water intake to reduce overeating and increase lean muscle mass.

  • Manage stress and get good sleep. Stress and sleep can impact your weight by affecting your appetite. Manage your stress levels with mindfulness techniques and aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

  • Get some help. You can also ask your healthcare provider about weight loss medications to lose weight alongside adopting the above healthy habits.

Everyone’s weight loss journey is different, and some people may not be able to include exercise on that journey. But weight loss without exercise is still possible. Focus on balanced, healthy eating and aim for some movement every day to manage your overall wellness.

You can also talk to a healthcare professional about a weight management program online today.

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