The Greeks understood that mind and body must develop in harmounious proportions to produce a creative intelligence. And so did the most brilliant intelligence of our earliest days – Thomas Jefferson – when he said, not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise.
If the man who wrote the Decleration of Independence, was Secretary of State, and twice President, could give it two hours, our children can give it ten or fifteen minutes.
John F Kennedy (1917-63), US statesman, Address to the National Football Foundations, 5 Dec 1961.
Who is John Cloud anyway?
If you follow health and fitness news, you have most likely come across the recent TIME Magazine article entitled, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin. The author of this article, John Cloud, attempts to trivialize the role exercise plays in weight loss by claiming that it is the exercise that is actually hindering weight loss efforts. While we agree that proper nutrition is also very important in achieving weight loss, we strongly differ from Mr. Cloud’s claims that exercise is actually keeping Americans fat. Exercise absolutely DOES have an integral part in achieving a healthy lifestyle that will ultimately result in weight elimination if needed and/or desired. This connection between exercise and a healthy lifestyle as it relates to weight elimination is a very important one that, unfortunately, Mr. Cloud fails to make. As health and fitness professionals, we fear that the overall message of the article is that it is pointless to push yourself to exercise when all it is going to do is keep you from achieving your weight loss goals.
This article has caused uproar amongst the health and fitness community. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) alerted all its members of the misleading content of the article and issued a press release encouraging each member to submit it to their local media. I have overheard several conversations about the article amongst colleagues and clients around the gym. And one friend of mine, who is an avid exerciser, is throwing the magazine in the trash because she is so disgusted by the article denouncing the importance of exercise.
So, we decided it was time to put TIME in its place. It is time that educated health and fitness professionals set the record straight about the true role exercise plays in weight management. It is infuriating that misleading information like this is published in a prominent media source. Besides, who is this John Cloud guy anyway?
Mr. Cloud’s article begins with the description of his weekly exercise regimen which is complete with 30 minutes on the stair-master, an hour with a personal trainer, a group exercise class, and a 5.5 mile run. He explains that although he has been sticking to this vigorous exercise routine for years and has maintained his weight (a point he very subtly makes), he still has his gut fat that hangs over his belt when he sits. All this torture on his body for all these years and he still has fat to lose? He decides that, of course, it has to be the exercise that is preventing him from losing the fat!
The article continues with statistics that show while gym memberships are at an all time high in our country, so are obesity levels. Exactly how are the two related? Just because someone has a gym membership does not mean that person is going to lose weight. It also does not mean that they are thin. And it certainly does not mean that one is overweight because they have a gym membership! If this was the case, you would see many more overweight avid exercisers at the gym!
As the article goes on, Cloud digs himself in deeper and deeper. He attempts to make a profound statement saying it is the exercise we do that is preventing us from losing weight. This is all due to the idea that exercise stimulates hunger forcing us to eat more and therefore halting any progress we have made. He says that if we use all our self-control and willpower to force ourselves to exercise, then there will be none left over to resist that enticing piece of pizza which we so crave after a hard bout of sweating at the gym.
Who does John Cloud think we are? A bunch of clueless, helpless, uneducated people who are slaves to our appetites with no hope of figuring out the actual needs of our own body? Yes, it is true that exercise will stimulate hunger simply because your energy need increases with the more activity you do throughout your day. However, this does not mean that you are unable to learn how to eat properly to keep yourself fueled correctly and prevent overeating, even with the extra energy you expend at the gym. This is a learned process; one that certainly anyone can be taught given the proper education and guidance. Where is this statement in the article?
The last major point Cloud attempts to make relates to the idea that when we exercise, tiredness sets in and we become more lethargic throughout the day and, therefore, are less active than normal. Again, this is not inevitable and it is not a direct cause of the exercise. With proper education on how to keep your body energized throughout the day, you can prevent the over-tired feeling and have an abundance of energy that your exercise will have actually helped to provide!
Time for Truth
It is time to face the facts. The most frustrating part of the entire article is that, as health and fitness professionals, we understand the point Mr. Cloud is trying to make. Many weight loss efforts are unsuccessful because people do not realize what it takes to see results with exercise alone. We have always said nutrition is about 75% of the weight loss game. Knowing this however, does not leave exercise out of the equation. Exercise is, in fact, a very important factor in weight loss and especially weight management. In his article, Cloud simply does not get this point across in an educational manner. Instead, he leaves the readers more confused than ever about exercise and the role it plays in effective weight loss.
Exercise Not Enough?
The first point Cloud tries to make is that even though one may exercise his/her tail off, it is not enough to promote weight loss. Truthfully, it is very difficult for one to lose weight with exercise alone, but it is not impossible. We know that there are 3500 calories in one pound of fat. In order to lose one pound of fat over a span of one week, there has to be a deficit of 3500 calories over seven days, or an elimination of 500 calories per day. Therefore, if one was to make no adjustments at all to his/her dietary intake and was to start an exercise program in which he burned 500 calories a day, he would lose one pound a week with exercise only.
In actuality, there are very few of us that will be exercising every day at the level necessary to burn an extra 500 calories. In fact, Mr. Cloud only admits to exercising four days a week, and yet he wonders why he still has leftover belly fat. The bottom line is in order to help facilitate effective weight loss; nutritional habits must also be changed. The 500 calorie deduction can come from cutting back on 500 calories of food each day, burning an extra 500 calories during your workouts, or a combination of the two. The key is to attain a balanced nutrition plan that provides enough calories to keep the body energized and prevents hunger throughout the day, while at the same time creating a daily 500 calorie deficit in order to lose weight.
Exercise = Stimulated Hunger, Loss of Willpower, and Overtiredness?
As previously mentioned, weight loss occurs when there is caloric deficit. At the end of the day, the amount of calories expended must be greater than the amount of calories consumed. However, this deficit cannot be too great because then the body will become overly hungry and cause the dieter to lose all willpower and overeat excess calories. Also, if too little calories are consumed, the body becomes tired due to lack of energy. If the road to weight management is to be a success, one must have a firm understanding of caloric (energy) balance.
When a sedentary person begins a workout regimen, his/her caloric need will increase simply because his/her energy output has increased. This number will vary greatly depending on the person, how physically demanding the workout is, and the specific weight loss goal. So, as Mr. Cloud points out exercise can, indeed, stimulate hunger. But, as we learn more about energy balance, we will enable ourselves to control this hunger through proper preparation and food choices.
In order to lose weight, it is important to understand that the desired caloric deficit needs to be met at the end of your day. In other words, you do not want to find yourself at too great of a deficit during your day when your body needs energy the most. This is when you will become overly hungry and your appetite will seem stimulated beyond what your willpower can handle. Whatever the caloric need for your desired weight may be, it is important that you consume those calories consistently throughout your day so that you will never find yourself too hungry. When you are overly hungry, cravings hit hard and willpower goes out the window.
Deciding to make a change and consume a more healthful diet means eating to properly nourish your body to help it feel its best all day long. The goal should be to prevent hunger by eating healthy meals throughout the day, spaced no more than three or four hours apart, so you will not have to worry about being strong or having enough willpower to make good choices. Because it will be properly fed, your body will make the right decision for you.
Cloud makes the claim that if you use all your willpower to force yourself to exercise that you will have none leftover to help fend off your cravings for â€œbadâ€ food. He also says you will be too tired after your workout to continue with your normal activities throughout your day. Mr. Cloud is wrong. It is not the exercise that is causing you to want that piece of pizza after your workout, it is that you may have not eaten anything for five or six hours and you are just finishing an hour long, intense workout. Your body is hungry and tired. It is not lack of willpower, but lack of nutrition preparation. And it is something that can be easily fixed in order to successfully reach your weight loss goals.
The Role of Exercise in Losing and Maintaining Weight
Most of this article has been focused on nutritional education and preparation to keep our cravings to a minimum and our energy high throughout the day. Now, we want to talk about the importance of exercise.
We all know how healthy exercise is for us. We hear it everyday. It’s good for the heart, the mind, the body. It wasn’t until John Cloud’s article in TIME, that we all were 100% certain that exercise was also good for losing and maintaining weight. Stick with what you know because exercise does play an important role in weight management.
As we mentioned earlier, it is extremely hard to lose weight with exercise alone. On the flip side, it is equally as challenging, and may be more dangerous, to lose weight with dieting alone. This is due to the fact that in order to drop one pound a week, there still needs to be a daily 500 calorie deficit. If this is reached through reducing your diet by 500 calories each day, you run the risk of consuming less than what your body needs just to survive your daily activities. When you drop below this caloric need, not only will you become hungry and experience fatigue, but your body will have no choice but to pull from stored energy to use as fuel. Unfortunately, this energy comes from stored protein, (i.e. muscle), and not fat. When you exercise, your body uses energy from stored carbohydrates (glycogen). As this energy is used, it leaves less leftover at the end of the day that will eventually be stored as fat. This is why your best option to achieve healthy and effective weight loss should come from a combination of exercise and a reduction in caloric intake.
When desired weight loss is achieved, the next step is the weight maintenance or management stage. Studies show that those who exercise regularly have an easier time keeping the weight off and managing their current weight then those who do not exercise. Basically, it comes down to the caloric equation again. If you burn more calories than consumed, you will lose weight. If you consume more calories than burned, you will gain weight. In order to maintain, you need to bring in equal calories than what you expend throughout your day. Believe us, this is much easier and much more enjoyable when you keep exercise a consistent presence in your life.
The Real Bottom Line
It seems everywhere we turn, some new health and fitness expert is hoping to revolutionize the industry with profound statements or weight-loss products to help millions of people who are struggling and desperate for hope. The truth is, we all know what do. We just have to make the choice to do it. John Cloud’s article raised a lot of question; not about the need of exercise for weight management, but about how the public may view an assumed expert opinion because an article was published in a well known magazine. Readers will take away the wrong message from Cloud’s article about exercise. It is up to us, the educated and dedicated health and fitness professionals to help inform the public on the real truth about exercise and weight management. We hope this article has helped clear up any confusion.
Just remember, the ultimate goal is to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Exercise helps make up a healthy lifestyle. And weight loss is a by-product of a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, exercise is key in achieving safe and effective weight loss and weight management. Period.
Maureen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from West Chester University in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the Pima Community College Fitness Professional Certificate Program. She is a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer.
Maureen grew up outside of Philadelphia but has called Tucson home since 1998. In her free time, she loves to hike, bike, run, and rollerblade with her husband Rob and children Sean and Katelyn.
The pursuit of health and fitness has been a personal journey for Maureen. After the birth of he second child she found herself 80 pounds overweight. Over the course of seven years, she improved her diet and exercised regularly. In 2003 she completed a full marathon but had only lost 25 pounds. Later, she sought the help of a personal trainer and was delighted to lose 5 pounds in 6 weeks. The trainer, however, was concerned and asked Maureen to see her doctor. After simple blood tests, she was diagnosed with hypothyroid disease and began treatment. An additional 32 pounds fell away. Inspired by her own success, she decided to switch careers and become a personal trainer herself.
Maureen wants everyone to enjoy the vitality she has found. She is excited to share what she has learned about exercise and nutrition with the rest of our BodyBasics community!
Looking for a quick snack that will help keep your energy levels high? Try the following recipe courtsey of Ellie Krieger, Registered Dietician and Food Network TV Chef. Eat one or two of these before and/or after your workout and you are sure to have an abundance of energy to last you all day long!
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pitted dried dates
1/2 cup powdered nonfat dry milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Place all ingredients except the syrup and eggs in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped. Add the syrup and eggs and pulse until the mixture is well combined. It will resemble a coarse paste.
- Transfer to the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until just done, about 20 minutes. Cut into 20 squares.
Nutritional Analysis per Serving
Calories: 133, Total Fat: 5 grams, Saturated Fat: 0.6 grams, Protein: 5 grams, Carbohydrates: 20 grams, Fiber: 2.5 grams
Dolores started training with her coach, Kathleen, in October 2008. Before that, she had not experienced resistance training in a structured way or with a fitness coach. Since training on a consistent basis, Dolores has increased her total body strength making it easier to climb stairs, get up and out of a chair, walk with better balance, and do the things she likes to do. She trains hard and maintains a sunny attitude at the same time!
Let’s support Dolores in her continued efforts to stay strong, healthy, and active with family and grandchildren. Keep up the good work Dolores!
What would you like to listen to while you’re doing your cardio? We want to know! Music can really make an otherwise BORING workout a lot more enjoyable. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org any and all songs that you would like to hear at the studio during your workouts. We will even set up a personalized playlist for you! You provide the song list and the order. We’ll do the rest.
We still have 4 mats left to give away. If you would like one let your fitness coach know.
To empower people to realize their innate abilities by providing an environment that nurtures, educates, and inspires.
Keep Up the Great Work!
We are very proud of all of you!
Chris, Kathleen, Mike H., Maureen, Mike D., Jenny, Robin, and Terry