On Decoupling Exercise and Weight Loss

From obesity researcher Travis Saunders comes this excellent post on how Canadian public health efforts to increase activity work against their own aims by tying exercise with weight loss:

[T]he average weight loss in response to a moderate increase in physical activity levels is very modest, and it’s likely that many people would see no weight reduction of any kind.   Even if it’s in the range of 5% of body weight (which is unlikely over the long-term), it’s probably substantially less than most people are hoping for. In which case the individuals who are only exercising for the sake of losing weight are going to get discouraged pretty quickly [...]

Further, this overwhelming focus on the relationship between inactivity and obesity may lead some lean individuals to conclude that they have no reason to be physically active since their body weight is already in a normal range. [...]

[A] single session of aerobic exercise results in measurable improvements triglyceride levels, HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity, even though it has no real impact on adiposity.   Further, it has been noted that mortality levels are lower among obese but fit individuals, as compared to lean but unfit individuals, suggesting that we really do need to be promoting physical activity as a healthy behaviour for everyone, not just those who are overweight or obese.

Travis writes at the Obesity Panacea blog.  Obesity Panacea focuses on the science (or lack thereof) behind popular weight loss products and discussions of the latest news and research regarding obesity, nutrition and physical activity.   It isn’t an explicitly size-acceptance space.

[Bolding and links within the quote are from the original.]

8 thoughts on “On Decoupling Exercise and Weight Loss

  1. Interesting…and confirms exactly what I believe. Exercise purely for weight loss equals guilt and feeling bad about your body, equals taking all the fun out of whatever activity you’re doing. There was a good article about this in the Guardian recently – with special reference to women – which was refreshingly free of the usual anti-obesity comments:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jan/28/women-getting-fit-losing-weight
    Me, I know I’d be a lot happier to participate in gym, dance classes, what have you, if I knew there’d be no talk of weight and calorie burning. Not to mention, I’d jump at the chance of a weight-free Wii Fit equivalent, but I’m not holding out much hope for that happening any time soon…

  2. This is one of my biggest battles. I’m really working on not weighing myself at the gym every time I go. I’ve been really surprised by hard that is, even though I gave up weighing at home more than a year ago. Thanks for sharing this information!

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