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3 studies, an inference and a few more articles has led me to understand that
Exercise is good for fitness, not for weight loss.
The 3 studies below and the following paradigm-shifting inference are from the book “How we get fat” by Gary Taubes.
In 2007, the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine published a paper.
They said that 30 minutes of moderately vigorous physical activity, 5 days a week, was necessary to “to maintain and promote health”. But when it came to the question of how exercising affects our getting fat or staying lean, these experts could only say, “it is reasonable to assume that person with relatively high energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.”
A report was published in 2000 by two Finnish exercise physiologists. These researches looked at the results of the dozen best-conducted experimental trials that addressed weight maintenance – that is, successful dieters who were trying to keep off the pounds they had shed. They found that everyone in these studies regained weight. The Finns concluded that the relationship between exercise and weight is “more complex” that they might have otherwise imagined.
In 2006, a study was published in 2006 by Paul Williams, a statistics expert at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California and Peter Wood, a Stanford University researcher who has been studying the effect of exercise on health since the 1970s. Williams and Wood collected detailed information on almost thirteen thousand habitual runners and then compared the weekly mileage of these runners with how much they weighed from year to year. Those who ran the most tended to weigh the least, but all these runners tended to get fatter with each passing year, even those who ran more than 40 miles a week – 8 miles a day, say, 5 days a week.
Imagine a man in his twenties who runs 20 miles a week – say, 4 miles/day, 5 days/week. According to Williams and Wood (and the logic and mathematics of calories-in.calories-out), he will have to double that in his thirties (8 miles/day, 5days/week), triple it in his forties (12 miles/day, 5days/week) to keep fat from accumulating.
A woman in her twenties who runs 3 miles/day, 5days/week – an impressive but not excessive amount – would have to increase her daily distance to 15miles in her forties to retain her youthful figure.
If we believe in calories-in/calories-out, it leads us to conclude that we have to run half-marathons 5days/week in our forties, more in our fifties and even more in our sixties.
Get a house near a sports stadium. See you on the track!! 😛
On a serious note, that is scary. I can’t see myself walking for 4 hours when I’m 60 years old.
Even Dr. Attia who is into exercise (read this and this) suggests that exercise may not be the weight-loss route that it is claimed to be. He says – ‘No one doubts that healthy people tend to be physically active people. The question is whether or not you can take unhealthy people and make them healthy merely by exercising them and without any meaningful change in diet. The answer is probably not.’ Read more here.
Read here what Dr. Jason Fung talks about exercise – Whether physical activity increases or decreases, there is virtually no relationship to the prevalence of obesity. Higher levels of physical activity did not reduce obesity.
Based on these and other articles that I’ve read,
1) I’ve realised that walking around fast flailing my arms in the air at the risk of hitting the face of the on-coming walker in the park is not so effective. Neither is thumping on the treadmill, increasing the risk of injury to my knees worth it. Neither is pedalling so fast on the elliptic cycle so fast that my legs are a blur to the onlooker effective (instead increasing the resistance of the elliptical cycle may help burn more fat).
2) I’ve come to the understanding that a slow walk around the block or a casual spin on the bicycle everyday, coupled with the following around twice a week may be more effective to stay fit.
- HIIT – High Intesity Interval Training
- Strength Training
- Resistance Training
- Eccentric Exercises
Read more if you want an excuse not to go the gym today 🙂