Can Exercise Make You Fat?

October 1, 2009 | Comments: None Yet - Post a Comment

Categories: Motivation, Nutrition, Science, Wellness

Many people read the article published in the August 9, 2009 edition of Time Magazine titled “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin” by John Cloud and became very excited. The idea that we should all sit around the campfire making s’mores after a long day of doing nothing instead of a long day hiking is appealing. Why should I exercise if it won’t do any good anyway? If nutrition and exercise didn’t work for the majority of people who tried it, truthfully, I wouldn’t be in this business.

In his article he cites a recent study (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0004515) published in the Public Library of Science in which three groups of obese, post-menopausal (something he doesn’t mention) women participated in supervised workouts at varying intensities and completed food journals. The results of the study showed that the women who worked out at the lowest intensity lost the “predicted amount of weight.” The other women lost weight too, but they lost less than the predicted amount. The reason that the higher intensity groups lost less weight was attributed to the participants becoming hungry after a workout and eating more food. Does it surprise anyone that if you burn 300 calories in the gym and then reward yourself for a job well done by eating a 430 calorie Starbucks Chocolate Chunk cookie you won’t lose much weight?

Another finding of the study was that there was a reduction in waist circumference in all three groups. Analysis of the data revealed “that waist circumference is decreased in response to exercise training even in the absence of weight loss but that when weight loss is present the decrease in waist circumference is significantly greater.” How is that a bad thing? How are these women getting fatter? They aren’t. They are reducing their risk of heart disease by decreasing their waist circumference.

The bottom line is these women lost weight. They were all post-menopausal and that is a big part of the equation. The hormone changes that occur during menopause really do make it more difficult for many women to lose weight. Further, they were not given nutritional guidance. The authors write, “Participants were repeatedly informed that the study was not a weight loss trial and were asked not to change their dietary or physical activity habits.” Exercise alone cannot overcome a poor diet and it is no surprise that there wasn’t a greater loss of weight in the high intensity groups when they weren’t given all of the tools needed for weight loss. The authors state that wasn’t the point of the study in the first place.

Exercise will not make you fat if your nutrition is sound.

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