Does exercise really influence body weight? Article Review

May 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Scientist and the Stairmaster, Gary Taubes

It is reasonable to believe that the more someone exercises the leaner that person will be.  After all, the leanest people tend to exercise often, while overweight people exercise less.  According to Taubes however, there is little evidence linking exercise to weight maintenance.

Here is the problem with the association between exercise and fat loss.  Low intensity exercise simply does not burn enough calories to produce a measurable impact and higher intensity exercise increases hunger. It is much more efficient to skip the 200 calorie pop-tart then go for a two mile run.

With more strenuous exercise, appetite increases because of massive energy expenditures.  Consider lumberjacks for example.  The average lumberjack will consume close to 5,00 calories per day.  So whatever was burned is likely to be consumed later on.

Until the 1960’s, doctors would not prescribe exercise to obese and overweight individuals. Clinicians who treated obese and overweight patients dismissed the notion as naïve.

Even today, we base our beliefs in this area from one influential nutritionist, Jean Mayer.  Despite any hands-on clinical work with obese individuals, and the inability to produce any meaningful studies to back up his exercise for weight control messages, he was appointed Chair to  Richard Nixon’s White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health in the 1969.

Jean Mayer worked to promote this message publicly.  It was around this time that America entered an, “Exercise explosion.”

Further, obesity research from the last sixty years on body weight regulation focused on thermodynamics.  Calories go in one side, they come out the other, and the difference (calories in minus calories out) ends up as either more or less fat.  The problem is, humans, rats, and all living organisms are ruled by biology, not thermodynamics.  The question as to why some people store energy and fat, and why some people expend that energy instead of storing it, is far more complex than this type of explanation.

Simply blaming fatness on some combination of gluttony, sloth, and perhaps a little genetic predisposition thrown in on the side is absurd.

It is physiology, not psychology that needs to be further investigated in this area.  The author explains the concept of fuel partitioning.  Do we burn calories as energy or do we store them as fat ? An enzyme called LPL (lipoprotein lipase) is responsible for using fatty acids and energy as fuel, or pulling calories and energy into fat cells.  Obviously, the latter being disadvantageous to body composition.

And it just so happens that insulin (produced from eating carbs and sugars) drives LPL activity in fat cells.

Brad Gatens, CSCS

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