Extremely interesting and eye-opening article on Time about exercise and weight loss. It’s eye-opening because when you think about it, it really makes sense.
People believe exercise helps you lose weight. While exercise is good for toning, muscle-building, and general health; it will not blast away the excess pounds you hope to lose. Diet remains the number 1 factor in weight loss. People will almost kill themselves in the gym to burn a couple of few hundred calories, which is promptly negated by the salty and sugary snacks and beverages that people eat and drink afterward. Amazing. I have been overlooking this in order to focus on my new workout plan when I had forgotten that when I watch what I eat, my pixie stomach pooch disappears. Crabby (my husband) just told me about his friend who has a friend who just lost 15 pounds in a month simply by cutting out all fast foods and soda (drinking only water) and not going to the gym once. I know people who were almost obese when pregnant, and got super slim without working out.
This is not a gym-bashing post at all; I just think people need to be realistic about their expectations when they go a-gymming (doesn’t that sound delightful? A-gymming?). Get toned, get swoll, get beefcakey, build endurance and strength, YAAASSSS. Get rid of the excess poundage? Not so much. I don’t advocate crash dieting or stuff that cuts out whole sections of food, like carbs. Just watch what you eat. Watch what you drink. Read labels. Pay attention to serving sizes. Look at the size of our dinner plates. They’re huge! I read a study once that showed people will fill up their plate no matter what size, no matter how hungry they actually are. So huge plates=huge portions. Read your juice. I diligently hunt out 100% juices that have no corn syrup or added sugar. You’d be surprised how much of your juice says 3% juice or has high fructose corn syrup in the 1st 3 ingredients. Vitamin Water? Glorified sugar water. Fast food? Welp, you see where I’m going with this. Here are some excerpts from the article:
According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle — a major achievement — you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that.
If evolution didn’t program us to lose weight through exercise, what did it program us to do? Doesn’t exercise do anything? Sure. It does plenty. In addition to enhancing heart health and helping prevent disease, exercise improves your mental health and cognitive ability.
But there’s some confusion about whether it is exercise — sweaty, exhausting, hunger-producing bursts of activity done exclusively to benefit our health — that leads to all these benefits or something far simpler: regularly moving during our waking hours.
The problem ultimately is about not exercise itself but the way we’ve come to define it. Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity — the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented — may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat. “You cannot sit still all day long and then have 30 minutes of exercise without producing stress on the muscles,” says Hans-Rudolf Berthoud, a neurobiologist at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center who has studied nutrition for 20 years. “The muscles will ache, and you may not want to move after. But to burn calories, the muscle movements don’t have to be extreme. It would be better to distribute the movements throughout the day.”
You regularly hear about the benefits of exercise in news stories, but if you read the academic papers on which these stories are based, you frequently see that the research subjects who were studied didn’t clobber themselves on the elliptical machine. A routine example: in June the Association for Psychological Science issued a news release saying that “physical exercise … may indeed preserve or enhance various aspects of cognitive functioning.” But in fact, those who had better cognitive function merely walked more and climbed more stairs. They didn’t even walk faster; walking speed wasn’t correlated with cognitive ability.
In short, it’s what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight. You should exercise to improve your health, but be warned: fiery spurts of vigorous exercise could lead to weight gain.