Father Andrew's Hot Body Gym

November 4, 2009

The Efficacy of Exercise: Another Perspective

Filed under: real talk — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Mara @ 3:32 pm

treadmill

Enter the "fat-burning zone"

Andrew stumbled upon this article on the NY Times’ website today that captured our attention. Micah already wrote one post, but I thought I’d add another, as I had already vented my frustrations in print format.

The article begins, “For some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don’t necessarily lose weight.”

It continues, “It is well known physiologically that, while high-intensity exercise demands mostly carbohydrate calories (since carbohydrates can quickly reach the bloodstream and, from there, laboring muscles), low-intensity exercise prompts the body to burn at least some stored fat.”

Their point is that exercise at the intensity they recommend for “fat burning” (low intensity) does not burn enough calories to significantly impact weightloss.

However, what they are referring to as “high intensity” is actually med-high intensity – what we call “chronic cardio“. That is when you are performing aerobic exercise at over 50% of your max but not pushing into the next level where things become anaerobic and you reach your output threshhold. That is how you get the “afterburn” – increased metabolic rate for an extended period after exercise – that this writer says doesn’t exist.

Low level cardio and med-high level cardio are not the only kinds of exercises out there. False dichotomy alert!!! It is such a destructive myth that there is this magical “fat-burning zone” that causes you to burn more fat if you workout at an easy pace than if you work out more intensely. This is how you end up with miles of eliptical machines churned by overweight, frustrated, burnt-out cardio queens.

At least at the end of the article they allow that exercise can change something in people’s metabolic pathways that enables them to keep the fat off. If only they had researched the effects of actual high-intensity anaerobic exercise on metabolic pathways – hello change!

Ultimately, this article starts out with a truth – exercise alone produces only very limited weightloss – but then does a horrible job of researching (not to mention articulating) everything that follows. Diet changes are extremely important, perhaps more important than exercise if your goals are simply to lose fat, but that doesn’t mean that exercise has no impact or that a kind of exercise (maybe not cardio-based???) might show more of an impact.

Furthermore, losing fat should NEVER be anyone’s sole health or fitness goal. Our longevity and other indicators of health increase in proportion to our percentage of lean muscle mass to total weight, so our goal should always be to increase muscle while decreasing fat.

So yes, if you just want to be thin, then stop that cardio and just make your diet tighter than a deadlifter’s bum cheeks. You will probably lose fat. And you will probably be miserable. But if you want to be healthy – strong, energetic, happy, AND thin – then go out for some tabata sprints, lift some heavy weights, AND trim the unsightly edges off your diet.

At least one thing is clear, by either of our standards: chronic cardio is POINTLESS!

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1 Comment »

  1. What a completely misdirected article. 80% of your body composition is directly related to your diet. Obviously just working out alone is not enough and it’s quite unnerving to hear the same outdated workout mantras said over and over again by Conventional Wisdom. I’m glad that we follow a practice that has proven results, so we don’t fall prey to show misleading claims.

    Comment by abbyleev — November 4, 2009 @ 5:17 pm


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