Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Finally! - Why Excerise Won't Make You Thin

I have been on a health kick since December, in yet another attempt to lose weight. With 20 pounds down, people often ask how much I am excerising. The answer - not much. Practicing law in a small firm does not leave much time for excerise. Sure, I could probably find the time, but my thought has always been, why bother?

I understand the benefits of walking, and I do not doubt those benefits. And I do walk and play golf, but going to the gym and working my butt off for an hour to lose weight? It never made much sense to me.

For me, its pretty simple. To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you eat. That's it. Simple. I burn something in the range of 2,600 to 2,800 calories a day in my no-excerise life style. We need to lose 3,500 calories to lose a pound. This is pretty simple - eat 500 calories less a day, you lose a pound a week. Done.

Now, it is really a bit more complicated than that, and you need to move in your daily life. I also pay attention to my intake of cholesterol, salt and saturated fat, but exercise to lose weight never made much sense to me. Let's see, use a stair machine for a half hour, you burn 500 calories. If you do that every single day, you lose another pound. Not too bad, assuming you can climb stairs for a half hour a day every day. But it is not mind blowing, and forgive me, but slightly unreasonable to sustain.

But this article from Time Magazine points out that when most people excerise for any length of time, the eat more! Think about it. When I was playing raquetball three days a week, each one of those sessions was followed by a Gatorade after, and a corn muffin on the way to the office.

Burn 500 calories playing raquetball, drink a bottle of Gatorade during the match, eat the corn muffin after, and you have given back 400 of those 500 calories. Plus the thought at lunch - "heck, I worked out today I can eat [insert whatever]" and you just negated any calorie burning benefit of the excerise.

But excerise builds muscle which burns more calories than fat? Sure, but again, do the math. Assuming you could add 10 pounds of muscle by excerise, that muscle burns 40 more calories a day. Sure, that is going to help you towards the losing 3,500 calories.

Read the article. It details study groups where the excerise group gained weight (because they ate more afterwards), those who excerise in the AM are less active during the rest of the day, and much more.

And then there is the friend to walked/jogged an hour a day, 7 days a week on a treadmill. She did it for months, lost 20 pounds, and was very happy. But she couldn't continue to walk that long for that many days and ultimately cut down on the walking. And ultimately gained back the weight. Calories in minus calories out.

Don't misunderstand. I understand the heart benefits of excerise, and the overall health benefits of daily excerise and simply moving during the day. But excerise to lose weight? Maybe it is the lazy lawyer in me, but that simply doesn't add up.

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