22 August 2009

Exercise won't help? Seriously?

Yesterday I added a new article from Time to the recommended reading links list. It's by John Cloud and called "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin." One of my readers sent it to me and asked for my response to it and what seems to be a rather ridiculous idea. If you haven't already read the article, check it out here. It is a bit long (and I encourage you to read it all), but you can probably get the idea from just the first page. Below is the response I gave.

"I agree with the author on nearly 100% of that article. Exercise does lead to increased energy expenditure, increased hunger, and often increased weight. When you burn calories through exercise that were once available to your stomach (to digest food) or your brain (to think) or your legs (to walk), your brain recognizes a lack of available energy and causes you to consume more food whether you do it knowingly or not.

"The issue (in my opinion anyway) is our diet. We consume too many carbohydrates and too many chemicals and too much processed food that our bodies have no idea what to do with. Extra carbs are stored as fat and cholesterol whereas dietary fat is stored as fat, but in a form the liver can more easily utilize. If someone's goal is to lose fat around the ab area, sit-ups are only going to make it BIGGER if he/she don't change his/her diet. It will build muscle under the fat that is already there (which needs to be burned). Fat loss is 95% in the diet. You have to train your body to switch back to the way it was originally intended to work and that's done by controlling insulin levels through the foods you choose.

"I'm sure you've heard this before about the Atkins diet: 'It works, but when you come off the diet, you gain all the weight right back.' Of course you do. When you begin to consume recommended amounts of carbohydrates again, then there's absolutely no doubt in my mind you'll gain weight and continue fostering insulin related issues. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way we think about our diet and the subsidies offered to the farmers who are growing soybeans and corn.

"I exercise probably around 5 days a week now (down from very often 10 or 12 days straight). Climbing, hiking, sprinting, olympic weight lifting (deadlifts, snatches, presses, squats, jerks), gymnastic bodyweight work (pull-ups, dips, push-ups), etc. I do only very mild cardiovascular work in my weight training, and hardly ever run more than a 5k. Just as we aren't designed to eat wheat and grains, we aren't designed to run long distances. If you have no idea where to begin, walking for 30 to 45 minutes 5 to 6 days a week is a fantastic form of exercise and give you the benefits of exercise (and free!).

"I don't do weight machines and neither should anyone else unless he/she is interested in wasting his/her time. Machines work only very concentrated groups of muscles whereas olympic lifts and gymnastics are considered 'compound movements' requiring work from many different muscle groups throughout the body.

"Olympic lifting will not make women 'hulk out' either. Look at Jessica Biel. She's pretty hot, right? Well, she lifts and sprints.

"Exercise is a fantastic thing you can do for your body. It'll improve your heart function, ability to deal with stress, make you look and feel better, improve cholesterol and insulin sensitivity, etc. However...

"The author of the article has it exactly right by saying that exercise is nearly useless for weight loss."

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