John Cloud, the article’s author, began to ask himself, too: “Why am I doing this?” His answer, in part: To lose weight.
One of the most widely accepted, commonly repeated assumptions in our culture is that if you exercise, you will lose weight. […]
The conventional wisdom that exercise is essential for shedding pounds is actually fairly new. As recently as the 1960s, doctors routinely advised against rigorous exercise, particularly for older adults who could injure themselves. Today doctors encourage even their oldest patients to exercise, which is sound advice for many reasons: People who regularly exercise are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases — those of the heart in particular. They less often develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses. But the past few years of obesity research show that the role of exercise in weight loss has been wildly overstated. […]
The basic problem is that while it’s true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn’t necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.
Of course, exercise isn’t a total waste of your time. There are many other benefits to it, as Cloud outlines, just weight loss isn’t one of them at least not automatically, especially with high-intensity work-outs in “halls of mirrors.”
In addition to enhancing heart health and helping prevent disease, exercise improves your mental health and cognitive ability. […]
But there’s some confusion about whether it is exercise — sweaty, exhausting, hunger-producing bursts of activity done exclusively to benefit our health — that leads to all these benefits or something far simpler: regularly moving during our waking hours. We all need to move more […]. But do we need to stress our bodies at the gym?
That is my question! Is it worth spending all that money – according to Cloud $19 billion per year – to go to the gym or can I just lace up my shoes and walk, like my mom?
Well, the research suggests that regular low-intensity exercise is just as beneficial as short bursts of intense exercise, like the gym-type stuff. As Cloud puts it
Many obesity researchers now believe that very frequent, low-level physical activity — the kind humans did for tens of thousands of years before the leaf blower was invented — may actually work better for us than the occasional bouts of exercise you get as a gym rat.
So, if you’re sweating in the gym to lose weight, you might want to reconsider. It’s better for your wallet (no gym membership) and the environment (no driving to the gym to work out on machines that require electricity) to simply go out and walk – and we now know that the research, too, shows that it’s better for our waistline.
I have finally implemented my plan to follow my mother’s routine and walk half an hour every morning even if that means I have to get up at the dreaded hour of 6 AM. I used a week off to get started with that routine. So far, it has at least one of the hoped for benefits: I sleep better!