Frontier Movement, Health and Healing in Action

Exercise for Weight Loss

Exercise is what I sell for a living. I would go crazy without it and so would everyone around me. Intense exercise keeps you young. Exercise makes the heart and lungs strong and lowers your blood pressure. Exercise helps you sleep. It gives you strong bones and muscles. Intense exercise delivers a potent natural high. But exercise doesn’t help much with our spare tire. I am not saying that exercise does nothing for weight loss, but we ADAPT so quickly to exercise that it is not a good weight loss tool.

I shall first deal with the myth of “spot reduction.” This is the concept of targeting your exercise directly to the area where the fat is stored. Examples would be cycling for the thighs or crunches for the tummy. As most of you know, this does not work.

If you do a lot of crunches WITHOUT changing your diet your stomach will not get smaller. You will be able to feel your “six pack” under your “keg” within weeks. That’s right; weeks are all that it takes to have great abs. Too bad you can’t see them! They are under your body fat and if you have not changed the way you eat, you will likely be even bigger around your middle as you now have the fat AND the muscle on your tummy.

Body fat will leave your body in the reverse order in which you gained it, period. Last in— first out. You would do well to think of your body as a storage unit. If you put the bed in first, it’s not coming out till you remove the dining room table.

As for cardio, I have looked at many cardio clinical trials attempting to use elevated heart rate exercise for weight loss and the results are ALWAYS poor. Sometimes the participants actually gain weight! A close look at these trials will reveal that ADAPTATION is the culprit.

Exercise protocols are governed by the FIT principle. The “F” stands for frequency or how often we exercise. The “I” stands for intensity or how hard we exercise. This is usually quantified in MPH or miles per hour. The “T” represents time or how long we perform the exercise.

Let’s take a typical trial format using “brisk walking” as the exercise. Subjects are instructed not to change their diet. The FIT protocol will be as follows; the sedentary subjects will walk for one hour (T), at 5 MPH (I), 5 days per week (F). As the subjects begin the trial they are struggling with the exercise. Their walking muscles and lungs are weak, their heart muscle is small and they are carrying extra weight. They have no ADAPTATION to brisk walking.

In the first month they might typically lose a pound and a half. This may continue for another month or even two. Then weight loss begins to slow. All the relevant muscles have become stronger and more efficient. The heart is bigger and moves blood more efficiently. The subjects are ADAPTING.

In a few more months weight loss will stop. Then to the surprise of everyone (over and over) weight gain slowly begins! These trials are usually 18 months long owing to the nature of graduate programs and often this is long enough for a net zero weight loss to occur. Many times, upon seeing little or no loss, the grad students re-title their study “weight maintenance.”

After observing longer trials, some unscrupulous exercise proponents have authorized shorter clinical trials that end while subjects are still losing weight or they simply cite results from the first half a clinical trial, ignoring the bad results later as ADAPTATION spoiled their fun. This is why you likely believe that exercise is much more effective for weight loss than it really is.

After years of disagreement from mainstream health ‘experts”, some are beginning to admit the futility of exercise for weight loss. In August 2009, Time magazine ran the cover story “The Myth About Exercise. Of Course It’s Good For You, But It Won’t Make You Lose weight.”

In a fight or flight, hunting and gathering species, efficient use and conservation of energy is a top priority. When weight loss as a result of exercise stops (we adapt), we must alter our FIT parameters to re-stimulate weight loss and thereby lose our adaptation. If we exercise more often (F), longer (T), or faster (I) we will shake off our adaptation and weight loss will resume. Until we adapt. Eventually we run into the previously discussed Sustainability problem.

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