From his WW blog (reposted with permission)
We get lots of questions about calculating or using activity points – and a lot of differing opinions. These tend to be shaped by personal experience or preference, as is my own.
Basic concept – your body burns calories for fuel, and the more you exert yourself, the more it burns. Similarly, when you consume less calories than you burn, you lose weight. So there are two possible levers to impact weight loss – intake and activity. The challenge is that there’s nutritional info for most foods, but no “activity info” for activity.
WW has some information in their articles. Go to http://tinyurl.com/IntensityOfExercise for the official WW guide to calculating activity points. My approach/observations?
– I started when WW assessed your activity level as a baseline, and you earned activity points for activity above that baseline. I still follow that approach, since it intuitively makes sense to me. If I’m more active than normal, I need more fuel.
– Some of the activity points calculated by the tracker are just wacky, so you can’t take it literally. For example, walking 18 holes of golf would earn me 18 AP. when I compare that to walking in general, it just seems high – so I only allow about 60% for that one. Essentially, you’ve got to decide what works for you, and experiment to see how it affects your progress.
– I eat my activity points. Some people don’t. Short version is that for me, it seems to offer a little more flexibility if I eat them. Yeah, I lost weight slower – but that’s okay with me; I got where I wanted.
– While activity is a lever to impact weight, I’m persuaded the bigger lever is intake. Why? I can eat five points of food in less than a minute, but it takes an hour of walking to burn it off. Essentially, it’s too easy to out-eat your activity.
– Activity points drop for a given level of activity as your weight drops. Make sure you’re recalibrating what you allow for activity as you lose weight.
– If your weight loss stalls and you eat your AP, how you calculate them might be one of the first places to look for the problem. Historically, people overestimate activity earned and underestimate calories consumed.
– Activity is more about fitness than food. (Took me a while to get there.) I’d suggest you don’t start counting the three minute walk to the train, the fourteen stairs into the office, the time spent walking around the grocery store – you get the picture. If you’re looking around for little tiny pieces of activity points to pick up, you may be thinking about this all wrong.
So don’t fear activity points – but use them with some caution and some common sense. Don’t be greedy about accumulating and using them.
One person’s opinion . . . . .