“Do the math”: Exercise & Weight loss

It’s something you commonly see. Example: “The average person walking half an hour a day would lose about 13 pounds a year”.

Recently a study actually had sedentary folks start exercising an HOUR a day, 6 days a week for a year. One would think they’d lose, what, more than 13 pounds on average, right?

Nope.

The women lost an average of 3 pounds and the men an average of 4 pounds. Both groups appear to have gained muscle, since they lost a bit more in total fat than in overall weight. The average fat loss was 4lb for women, 6.6lb for men … which is still less than the 13 pounds they’re “supposed” to lose if they’d walked 30 minutes a day.

So, er, how’s that again?  Is an hour of aerobic exercise a day actually less work than a half an hour of walking “on average”?  Or is the math on this sort of stuff just totally fucked?

Of course, the other frustrating thing is that this reinforces the idea that exercise is only valid if it causes weight loss. Fun, improved mental functioning, increased stamina, increased strength, increased flexibility – those don’t count. In this mindframe,  the only thing that matters is becoming thin.  Only then will you be acceptable.

Here’s a better goal, for me:

Many of us confuse mental fatigue and stress with physical fatigue and forget that nothing energizes the mind and body like exercise. […]

[B]eing fit, at its core, is about function, not form. That’s the focus of top athletes. Being fit means having the ability to do what you need, whatever that may be. It could be skiing without getting injured or doing your job without letting your job undo you. […] “Functional fitness” is all the rage now, but it’s just rediscovering what we began to ignore. Fitness always has been about function — long before gimmicks and gizmos and guilt fogged focus and before body beautiful overtook body awareness.

Unfortunately, the newspaper where I first read this felt the need to include “how to calculate BMI” and “calories burned by various activities” along with this focus on functionality.  Do they really feel that feeling good and functional fitness isn’t enough, you also have to be thin?  Or do they think readers would demand the information on losing weight?

Oh: Exercise won’t make you skinny, either.

14 thoughts on ““Do the math”: Exercise & Weight loss

  1. I think we idealize what life thin is like.

    I used to be a diet counselor and I can tell you that the substantial changes made from a large weight loss were usually more to do with a change in mental outlook or increased fitness. They’d attribute it to skinny, but that was really a proxy.

    But, I’ve seen the same thing in other ways. People will talk about how martial arts saved their life because that was THE way that taught them to think in more productive ways… or joining a church, or going to AA.

    Almost no-one will step up to the plate and say, “I decided to make a change in my mental outlook and while I had tools, dammit, it was ME that did it!” They almost always praise the method and never realize that they found *a* method at a time when they were ready to make that change.

    This is not to say that there are genuine physiological benefits that create genuine positive differences when you get active. They’re quite real.

  2. I think we idealize what life thin is like.

    I think a lot of people do. I grew up wishing I were thinner, shorter, less busty. I lost the last of that working with a friend who was 5’2″, weighed ~100lbs, and was an A cup – we were at opposite sides of the height, weight, and boob bell curves, but we both had issues to deal with. :)

    there are genuine physiological benefits that create genuine positive differences when you get active. They’re quite real.

    That’s pretty much what I’m trying to focus on. It’s unlearning what I was taught growing up about how the purpose of exercise was to lose weight, and if I didn’t lose weight then there is no point. :)

  3. Unfortunately, the newspaper where I first read this felt the need to include “how to calculate BMI” and “calories burned by various activities” along with this focus on functionality. Do they really feel that feeling good and functional fitness isn’t enough, you also have to be thin? Or do they think readers would demand the information on losing weight?

    It’s an unfortunate cycle:
    Media propagates a certain standard, the masses fall for the standard and have a need to find quick fast ways to get that standard, of course then the newspaper knows that they’ll sell more if they cater to the mass mindset and keep the cycle going.

    At least that’s how I think it goes.

    Exercise is way more than losing weight, it’s about feeling refreshed, and in my experience the best way for me to relieve stress.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. “Unfortunately, the newspaper where I first read this felt the need to include “how to calculate BMI” and “calories burned by various activities” along with this focus on functionality. Do they really feel that feeling good and functional fitness isn’t enough, you also have to be thin? Or do they think readers would demand the information on losing weight?”

    Yeah, some people are interested in losing weight for their own reasons. What’s wrong with that? You don’t have to calculate your BMI or think about calories. But if someone else does, why hate on them??

  5. Pingback: Is it fat or lack of exercise? « Living ~400lbs

  6. Pingback: “Every Little Bit Helps!” Really? Depends on your goal. « Living ~400lbs

  7. Pingback: Weight loss math isn’t as simple as they thought « Living ~400lbs

  8. As someone who has been active all my life & still walks every day (I believe I am up to a total…just OUTDOOR walking, not including around houses, stores, malls, doing laundry, housework, childcare….of between 55,000 & 60,000 miles walked in my life), may I add a hearty “amen!” to ‘going for a daily walk may not cause weight loss either.” My personal experience has been that I had to, when I was younger & my hormonal levels/metabolism were different, work out intensely three to four hours daily in order to lose maybe 4-5 pounds PER YEAR. Now, in my 60’s & postmenopausal, with arthritis pain increasing & the balance issues from my cerebral palsy worsening, I CANNOT exercise that much physically, nor is it worthwhile psychologically, & I have a strong feeling that if I tried to push myself that hard any more, I would find myself in an electric wheelchair or scooter that much sooner. I feel better, have somewhat better muscle tone, more energy, & I MAY give my overall health some protection by staying as active as I can for as long as I can, but I am not getting thinner. I no longer give a damn, which is kind of nice after over 30 years in fat acceptance.

  9. Pingback: Well here’s MY suggestion to “solve” childhood obesity « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

  10. Pingback: A Year or Two Ago… | Living ~400lbs

  11. Pingback: Post-Turkey Post « I AM in shape. ROUND is a shape.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s