Weighing the Evidence on Exercise

Filed under: General Health, Training

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise was a story recently published in the NY Times (a big thanks to Lou for sending it to me). The article looks at the interesting fact that exercise alone does not cause much weight loss. It delves into the reasons behind why this is, why men and women react differently to exercise, why lean people and overweight people react differently, and everything in between. It is a good read and definitely worth checking out.

For those of you who seem to train their asses off and never quite seem to reach your goals, this article can shed some light on some physiology as to why, as well as some good information to help you get around that. Plus cleaning up your diet along with a good training program is the real trick of the trade, as the two work synergistically to melt the weight off.

Below is a part of the article that I found most interesting:

Scientists are “not really sure yet” just how and why exercise is so important in maintaining weight loss in people, Braun says. But in animal experiments, exercise seems to remodel the metabolic pathways that determine how the body stores and utilizes food. For a study published last summer, scientists at the University of Colorado at Denver fattened a group of male rats. The animals already had an inbred propensity to gain weight and, thanks to a high-fat diet laid out for them, they fulfilled that genetic destiny. After 16 weeks of eating as much as they wanted and lolling around in their cages, all were rotund. The scientists then switched them to a calorie-controlled, low-fat diet. The animals shed weight, dropping an average of about 14 percent of their corpulence.

Afterward the animals were put on a weight-maintenance diet. At the same time, half of them were required to run on a treadmill for about 30 minutes most days. The other half remained sedentary. For eight weeks, the rats were kept at their lower weights in order to establish a new base-line weight.

Then the fun began. For the final eight weeks of the experiment, the rats were allowed to relapse, to eat as much food as they wanted. The rats that had not been running on the treadmill fell upon the food eagerly. Most regained the weight they lost and then some.

But the exercising rats metabolized calories differently. They tended to burn fat immediately after their meals, while the sedentary rats’ bodies preferentially burnedcarbohydrates and sent the fat off to be stored in fat cells. The running rats’ bodies, meanwhile, also produced signals suggesting that they were satiated and didn’t need more kibble. Although the treadmill exercisers regained some weight, their relapses were not as extreme. Exercise “re-established the homeostatic steady state between intake and expenditure to defend a lower body weight,” the study authors concluded. Running had remade the rats’ bodies so that they ate less.

This article makes about as good of a case for exercise and its importance in weight regulation (not to mention numerous other health factors, it truly is our Fountain of Youth) as I have seen. Enjoy!

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Posted on April 21st, 2010 by Brian St. Pierre


  1. Don’t miss these great links! Says:

    [...] Brian St Pierre draws our attention to an article in the New York Times about how exercise functions for weight loss.  I particularly liked this great quote drawn from the experience of Eric Ravussin, a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge.  “In general, exercise by itself is pretty useless for weight loss.  It’s especially useless because people often end up consuming more calories when they exercise.  The mathematics of weight loss is, in fact, quite simple, involving only subtraction.  Take in fewer calories than you burn, put yourself in negative energy balance, lose weight.” [...]

  2. Exercise for weight loss – other considerations Says:

    [...] to get you to your goals on its own.  However, Brian St. Pierre did a brilliant article about how exercise can help change your metabolism so that, once you lose the weight you can maintain your lower weight [...]

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