You Can't Outrun Your Fork

- POSTED ON: Sep 05, 2013

We need to unhitch exercise from weight-management.

Exercise is great for health,
but weight-loss comes from the kitchen

Exercise is Not Likely to Be Your Ticket
             to the Weight-Loss Express

 Among the most commonly held misconceptions about obesity, perhaps none does more harm than the notion that exercise is responsible for the lion's share of weight management.

Sure, it's true that exercise does burn calories, and yes, if you burn more calories you ought to lose weight. But unfortunately, it's just not that simple.

To put exercise into some perspective, to lose a pound of weight each week would require roughly a marathon of effort each and every week, as the calories burned running those 26.2 miles would likely be in the neighborhood of a pound's worth. Of course, it would also necessitate that not once did you "eat because you exercised" – neither as an indulgence to reward yourself for all that running, nor as a consequence to any running-induced hunger. Seems to me that'd be pretty unlikely.

Looking at real-world studies of exercise and its impact on weight, the results are underwhelming to say the least. Take this 2007 study published in the journal Obesity. Researchers instructed 196 men and women to exercise an hour a day, six days a week, for a year! And researchers weren't just telling people to exercise, they were supervising them and instructing them as well.

Compliance was incredible – only seven study dropouts – and over the course of the year, men averaged 6.16 hours of weekly exercise, and women, 4.9 hours. So did the 320 hours of exercise for the men and the 254 hours for the women lead to weight loss? Yes, but probably less than you might have guessed. Men lost, on average, 3.5 pounds, and women, 2.6. That translates to 91.5 hours of exercise per pound lost.

Now, to be very clear, there is likely nothing better for your health than exercise – truly nothing. There's no pill you can take and no food you can include or avoid that will give you the health benefits of regular exercise. I exercise regularly, and I strongly encourage all of my patients to do so as well. But I also tell them that they can't outrun their forks.

The notion that moving more will translate to weight loss is a dangerous one. For individuals, it may effectively discourage exercise when results aren't seen on scales. For the media and entertainment industries, it often leads to the perpetuation of the "people-with-obesity-are-just-lazy" stereotype. For the food industry, it allows an embrace of exercise by means of sponsorship and marketing, which, in turn, helps companies deflect product blame and forestall industry-unfriendly legislation.

And for public policy makers, it makes it challenging to make the case for interventions that increase exercise, as inevitably the outcome hoped for is weight loss, and when outcomes are poor, it becomes more difficult to make the case that the intervention is worthwhile (like P.E. or more recess time in schools, for instance).

We need to unhitch exercise from our weight-management wagons. Breaking it down, figure that your diet is responsible for 80 percent of your weight and fitness – unless you're incredibly active, just 20 percent. If WEIGHT's your concern you're much more likely to lose it in your kitchen than you are in your gym. But don't forget, if it's Health you're after, you need to do both.

Whoever said life was fair?

 by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, M. D. - 9/4/2013 - US News, Health & Wellness 

Yoni Freedhoff, MD, is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, where he's the founder and medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute—dedicated to non-surgical weight management since 2004. Dr. Freedhoff posts on  www. Weighty Matters.

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On Sep 05, 2013 jethro wrote:
i believe Dr. Yoni has not presented the issue properly. To lose weight you must create a calorie deficit. Thus, if you exercise and burn less/same calories than you eat, you won't lose weight. However, if calories are kept constant or reduced, numerous metabolic ward studies - the gold standard for testing weight loss issues since all elements are controlled, unlike free living studies like the dr. quoted above - have shown that subjects that exercised lost more weight than non-exercisers, if both groups ate the same number of calories in proportion to their respective metabolism. Furthermore, there is something wrong with Dr. Yoni's study. Male subjects 3.5 lb. which equals 12,250 calories (3.5*3,500). Male subjects exercised 320 hours, burning 38 CALORIES AN HOUR? Are you serious? What were they doing? I can burn more than that playing video games! Evidently male subjects lied about their exercise or overate. On the other hand Tour De France cyclists eat 7,000 calories daily and have difficulty maintaining their weight. And they are not exactly chubby. We need to analyze carefully extravagant claims made out of "studies" because they can be unscrupulously manipulated to yield desired outcomes.

On Sep 05, 2013 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi Jethro. ***DietHobby is my Scrapbook for ideas, concepts, articles etc. that are of interest to ME. I share them with people who have similar interests. I have no need to provide citations or links here. Anyone interested can go to the original article to see them and follow them up. DietHobby is not a place for scientific discussions about underlying research on specific articles. If you wish to argue those issues, please comment at the original article. ****Unless I indicate otherwise, I tend to agree with the things that I post ... sometimes quite strongly. Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is one of the few obesity specialists that I hold in high esteem, and I especially liked this article because I've done quite a lot of personal research on the "exercise as weight-management" issue, and have discovered for myself that while exercise provides one with better Health, it isn't that helpful for weight-loss and maintenance, and that the amount of Food-intake is the key for those issues.

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