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By Sue Shekut, Licensed Massage Therapist, ACSM Personal Trainer, Certified Wellness Coach, Owner, Working Well Massage

Does exercise makes you fatter?  According to an article in Time Magazine ‘s August 9th,  2009 issue, “Why Exercise Won’t Make you Thin,” vigorous exercise can make you unable to lose weight. The article states that people only have so much willpower. Once they use that limited self control to work out, they don’t have any more mental strength to resist over eating. It also states that vigorous exercise makes you ravenous and you end up eating much more if you exercise than if you do not.

Well, that’s just silly.  Think about it. If vigorous exercise made you fat, Michael Phelps would be a Sumo wrestler.  It is true that high caloric expenditure requires high caloric intake.  An Olympic athlete that burns 12000 calories a day in training would need to eat at 12000 calories just to maintain his current weight. People that work out for hours at a time–competitive body builders, gymnasts, swimmers and marathon runners–do expend a lot of calories. And they do need to eat to replace the calories they burn in exercise. But ask a marathon runner if he or she is ravenously hungry after a run. Many of them will tell you they actually lose their appetite immediately following an intense workout. Body builders eat frequent meals throughout the day to keep protean available to give their muscles building blocks to grow larger and stronger.

It’s only been relatively recently that human beings lead such sedentary lifestyles. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, most people had very physically active lives. Daily caloric intake was larger due to the extra caloric expenditure. In other words, if you spent your day tilling the fields, or washing clothes and dishes by hand, hand washing floors and making bread from scratch, you had a higher caloric needs than someone from 2009 that sits at work all day, drives home, microwaves a meal and sits in front of the television.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, a leading authority in sports medicine and exercise science:

• Physical activity is one of the most important behavioral factors in weight maintenance and improving long-term weight loss outcomes. In fact, participation in an exercise program has proven to be the very best predictor of maintaining weight that was lost.

• Effective weight loss and maintenance depend on a simple equation called energy balance: Calories expended through physical activity and normal lifestyle functions must exceed calories consumed.

• It is a myth that exercise can actually prevent weight loss by leading exercisers to overeat. Research and common sense disprove this notion. Look around the gym or the jogging trail. If this were the case, wouldn’t those who regularly exercise be the fattest?

• Physical activity needn’t involve expensive equipment, gym memberships or team athletics. Simple activities like walking, accumulated in 10-minute bouts, can have significant benefits.

John Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM states that” “Again, it is clear in this regard that physical activity is one of the most important behavioral factors in enhancing weight loss maintenance and improving long-term weight loss outcomes.”

Jakicic’s research on obesity, published in 2008, showed that a long duration of physical activity (275 minutes above baseline levels) led to the largest observed weight loss after a 24-month intervention.

Sorry for the letdown, folks, but exercise does help you lose fat and maintain the weight loss. And  it can be fun!

Sources:

Time Magazine Article link

ASCM Article link

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