exercise on keto

If You’re on Keto, Do You Need to Exercise too?

You’ve just started keto, and the weight is already falling off. You’re well on your way to reaching your weight loss goals, so do you really need to exercise while you’re on keto? 

The short answer is yes. Exercise is necessary whether you’re on keto or not. Before you go hop on the treadmill, let’s first unpack why exercise is necessary and how it improves your baseline health.


Is Exercise Necessary? 

If you’ve ever counted calories, you know that exercise is not necessary to lose weight. If you eat less calories than you need to maintain your weight, then you’ll lose weight so long as you don’t enter starvation mode.

Exercise can make the process go faster by helping you burn more calories. Exercise increases your metabolic rate and helps you burn calories more efficiently. For example, if you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight, you can achieve your weight loss goals faster if you eat 1500 calories and then burn an additional 500 calories during a workout. That’s a deficient of 1000 calories per day! 

However, just because you don’t need exercise to lose weight doesn’t mean you should skip it for good. While exercise isn’t necessary to shed pounds, it is beneficial to other facets of your health.


Benefits of Exercise

Regular exercise benefits may aspects of your overall health. Exercise can:

  • Help prevent obesity [1]
  • Help you maintain your weight once you hit your goals [2]
  • Reduce the risk of developing heart disease [3] [4]
  • Help manage blood sugar levels  [3] [4]
  • Help your body use insulin more efficiently [3] [4]
  • Help reduce nicotine cravings [5]
  • Help you manage stress by reducing cortisol levels
  • Improve mood by increasing serotonin and endorphins 
  • Help manage mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety [6]
  • Reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancers 
  • Improve your quality and quantity of sleep each night
  • Reduce the risk of developing erectile dysfunction 
  • Promote strong bones, especially in children and teens
  • Reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis in older adults
  • Increase and maintain lean muscle mass [7]
  • Promote cognitive function and brain health
  • Reduce the risk of sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass due to the natural aging process [8]


Which Type of Exercise Do You Need?

All exercise is good for your mind and body, not all exercise affects your body in the same way. There are four types of exercise:

  1. Aerobic exercise: Often called “cardio”, this type of exercise includes running, swimming, biking
  2. Anaerobic exercise: This type of exercise is typically shorter in duration that aerobic exercise and includes activities such as weightlifting.
  3. Flexibility exercise: These exercise help reduce sports injuries, promote your range of motion, and improve soft-tissue (like muscle) health. Gentle stretches and yoga fall into this category.
  4. Stability exercises: Exercises such as core training help to improve your balance while promoting proper spinal alignment.

Depending on which exercise you choose, you receive different benefits. For example, if your goal is to improve your cardiovascular health, choose an aerobic exercise and participate for at least 30 minutes. On the other hand, if you’re looking to reduce your risk of osteoporosis or simply improve your bone health, you’ll need resistance, weight-bearing exercises. Ideally, try to add all forms of exercise into your weekly regimen.

Making Exercise More Fun

The takeaway: exercise is essential. Even if the keto diet helps you achieve all of your weight loss goals, exercise provides many benefits to keep your mind and body in good shape. Need help getting more exercise each day? Join a class, find an accountability buddy, or find a club that focuses on your passion (like a running club).



  1. Gim, Mi-Na, and Jung-Hyun Choi. “The Effects of Weekly Exercise Time on VO2max and Resting Metabolic Rate in Normal Adults.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, The Society of Physical Therapy Science, Apr. 2016.
  2. Eriksson, J, et al. “Exercise and the Metabolic Syndrome.” Diabetologia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 1997.
  3. Yancy, William S, et al. “A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet to Treat Type 2 Diabetes.” Nutrition & Metabolism, BioMed Central, 1 Dec. 2005.
  4. Boden, Guenther, et al. “Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Appetite, Blood Glucose Levels, and Insulin Resistance in Obese Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” Annals of Internal Medicine, American College of Physicians, 15 Mar. 2005.
  5. Luberto, Christina M, and Alison C McLeish. “The Effects of a Brief Mindfulness Exercise on State Mindfulness and Affective Outcomes among Adult Daily Smokers.” Addictive Behaviors, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2018.
  6. Anderson, Elizabeth, and Geetha Shivakumar. “Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Anxiety.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, Frontiers Media S.A., 23 Apr. 2013.
  7. Tipton, K D, and R R Wolfe. “Exercise, Protein Metabolism, and Muscle Growth.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2001.
  8. Galloza, Juan, et al. “Benefits of Exercise in the Older Population.” Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2017.

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