Why exercise won’t make you thin

Some food for thought based on the article in Time magazine. Many have the misperception that they will lose weight just by exercising, or by exercising more. It’s the American idea that more is better. You know the type, they decide they want to lose weight so they go out and run for extended periods of time, but aren’t changing other habits (kind of like ordering a diet pop when you go for fast food). I get it all the time, people will come in frustrated that they’ve been running miles a day without results. We spend $19 billion a year in gym memberships, 57% of people in 2000 said they exercised regularly (but how is this helping, if there are a larger percentage of people who are overweight and obese- 2/3 of the population?) The importance of exercise has been overrated in years past, and in some cases can make it harder to lose weight. For some it triggers hunger, which can cause over consumption and reverse the calorie deficit you create by exercising. A study was done by Dr. Timothy Church. They tested 464 women. The women were divided into 4 groups and assigned 72, 136, or 194 minutes of exercise a week and one group to maintain their usual routine. Most lost weight, but the ones beating themselves for hours most days of the week, didn’t lose more weight then the other groups (and some even gained weight). Most ended up eating more (greater hunger after exercise or rewarding themselves). This is relevant because government and other ‘health’ organizations keep recommending more exercise. In 2007 the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association made new guidelines of 60-90 minutes of physical activity for weight lose. We see it in pop-culture too, on shows like The Biggest Loser, where they are getting the crap beat out them for hours a day.


Something interesting is that since the gym exercise boom of the ’80s slow aerobic movement has decreased and Americans weight have went up. I’ve discussed the importance of just moving (walking, biking, hiking, swimming, gardening, etc.) Self-punishment at gyms could not only deplete muscles, but self-control (feeling entitled to some ice cream after a hard workout. Exercising less, might also let you feel more motivated to move around less after your workout (most just want to kick back because they’ve exhausted themselves at the gym). Obesity researchers are starting to realize that frequent low-level activity- like our ancestors (hello paleolithic!) may work better than torturing ourselves in gyms (and chronic cardio, do you really want to run 5 miles?) Walk around the mall- take the stairs instead. Studies showing that healthy weight is more crucial to preventing cardiovascular disease than strenuous exercise (which is often associated with a healthy heart). “It’s what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight.”” Hello I’ve been preaching this for years! I’ve always emphasized to clients that eating is the most  critical part to wellness. Don’t get me wrong exercise is an important aspect o our program as well (and exercise does have benefits: enhance heart health, prevent diseases, mental health, and cognitive ability), but what you stick in your mouth is even more important. We just need to reevaluate what kind of exercising we do. I have clients come in for cardio classes that last 20 minutes or so, and they’ll do it 1-3 times a week. They rest of the time I encourage them to just get out and move, go for a walk; then discuss eating with them whenever I get the chance. Bottom line: just exercise will not make you thin!

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