Shock: Fitness article that doesn’t mention weight

This near-mythical item appeared in The New York Times, reporting on the US Government’s latest physical activity guidelines.

Nothing about how exercising can cause weight loss.  Even when discussing beginners, weight loss does not come up:

The people who accrue the greatest health benefits from exercise go from doing nothing to doing something.

“A one-minute walk isn’t going to do much for your health, but it is a way to start,” said Dr. Steve Blair, an epidemiologist at the University of South Carolina whose research over the last 20 years formed much of the basis for the new federal guidelines. “Next week, can we do two minutes?  Then the third week, three minutes. Eventually you’ll be up to 30 minutes.”

Even then, it doesn’t have to be 30 minutes at a time. “Ten minutes in the morning, 10 minutes when you come home. Weekends, try to get up to 30 minutes,” said Bill Haskell, an emeritus professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The article also includes suggestions for the time-crunched, children, seniors, and those who can’t get enough exercise.

Further browsing of the Times website finds their Health Guide on Exercise. The Reporter’s File, written by Gina Kolata, begins:

  • While exercise can boost mood, its health benefits have been oversold.
  • Moderate exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes in people at risk. Exercise may reduce the risk of heart disease and breast and colon cancers.
  • Though the evidence is mixed, exercise may also provide benefits for people with osteoporosis.
  • Physical activity alone will not lead to sustained weight loss or reduce blood pressure or cholesterol.

This is even worse.  Not mentioning weight is one thing, but asserting that exercise alone won’t cause you to lose weight? You should just do it because it’s good for you and it might feel good – or worse yet, it might serve some utility, like making it easier to be on your feet at work all day?   Obviously the persons responsible for this travesty must be rounded up and charged with negligence for forcing Americans to get fat!  ;)

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5 thoughts on “Shock: Fitness article that doesn’t mention weight

  1. When you post things like this — and the article a while back about how to start exercising from literally nothing — it really inspires me. I’ve always been one of those people who either had tons of exercise in her daily life (for example, college, when I walked something like 12 miles per day and often went out at night to play drunk tag) or did nothing at all (for example, now, when I spend 90% of my day on my butt at my computer with only brief breaks to cook or play with my son). When I’m in a no-exercise phase I get into bad shape really fast thanks to arthritis and fibromyalgia and a completely destroyed metabolism, and thenI feel like crap and get depressed because I invariably try to do an hour of Tae-Bo one day and crap out after five minutes and decide I’m never going to be able to leave my desk chair ever again and get more depressed and… well, I’m rambling, but the point is: I’d never really thought before that even a little exercise, if I do it every day and keep it simple, could actually be helpful. It’s nice to have the reminders. And, uh, a comment thread to ramble in before I’ve had my coffee, sheesh. ;)

  2. Glad you liked it. I hear you on the “Oh I used to X, so I should be able to just start with that now!” I’ve done the dive-in-and-do-ridiculous-amounts-and-injure-myself multiple times. After a while it just seems dumb not to start learning from these mistakes!

    I’m off to get coffee m’self :)

  3. Steven Blair is a longtime advocate of the “fit and fat” model; he’s a very active fat person himself, and he’s written a lot about the whole “fit and fat” idea. It’s amazingly awesome that he was chosen as an Official Expert on Exercise by our stupid fatphobic gummint.

  4. And Blair has also been in charge of a large long-term study of over 30,000 people which showed that fat people can indeed be as fit & healthy as thin people.

    As an aging, disabled person with a LONG history of compulsive exercise (often four hours per day EVERY day for periods of three years or more), I am glad to hear about more sensible, balanced guidelines, since I am reaching the point where I CANNOT do the amount or intensity of exercise I used to do & my body is forcing me to slow down. However, I am still active & will be as long as possible to stay as mobile & independent as possible for as long as possible.

    I am also glad to see that someone has admitted that the ‘health benefits’ of exercise have long been exaggerated & oversold. I kind of figured it out years ago, watching superfit, excessively active people sustain all kinds of injuries & often drop dead suddenly & many sedentary people I knew, including the majority of my relatives, blithely ignoring the ‘fact’ that they were ‘killing themselves’ & living on into their 80’s & 90’s. One CANNOT run oneself to immortality, but one CAN run oneself to serious & chronic injuries & sometimes to death. At least I am physically incapable of running, so I was spared that form of insanity.

  5. I am also glad to see that someone has admitted that the ‘health benefits’ of exercise have long been exaggerated & oversold.

    Gina Kolata addresses this in her book Ultimate Exercise. She points out that if you want general health, you don’t need to do much – just the moderate activity the government recommends, perhaps including strength or balance training if you’re older.

    Kolata does identify other reasons for exercising, such as body modification and fun. But she also notes that not everyone can build, say, the sort of arms Laura Hamilton had in Terminator 2, at least not without drugs; and that not everyone gets an endorphin high from exercising, either. AKA, these work for some people – but not for all people :)

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