I watched episode 2 of the the documentary ‘The Men Who Made Us Thin’ last night on BBC2.
In this episode Jacques Peretti examines the links between exercise and weight loss as he charts the story of the fitness industry. He also sheds light on the search for a safe weight loss pill.
The constant message purveyed across the episode is that exercise is an inefficient method of weight loss. Jacques states that the food and drinks industries essentially tells us, through advertising, that you can eat/drink what you want so long as you exercise (as this will ‘burn off’ any excess calories). Similarly, the fitness industry promotes exercise as an effective method of weight loss (reinforcing the unspoken, but subliminally advertised, eat what you want mantra).
However, exercise can be an efficient weight loss intervention, but only if you have the time (i.e. professional athletes paid to ‘workout’) or you are an amateur with no life who exercises every second of the day!
Most of us are neither. This is were calorie intake, or more precisely calorie control, comes into the fore. Many people have sedentary jobs or low activity jobs and therefore eating calorie dense foods or just generally overeating will ‘make’ you put on weight. Add to this family life, i.e. looking after kids, seeing family, going to the cinema etc, and you have a small amount of time in which to exercise and therefore, de facto, cannot expend a large amount of calories.
Approximately 75% of your daily calorie expenditure you have no control over. I am referring to your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), i.e. the calories you expend just to function: body temperature, breathing, brain function etc. You can impact on your RMR though building/losing muscle but this exhibits only a relatively small increase/decrease.
Another interesting fact was a study on two groups of kids. Group 1 did exercise and Group 2 did not. Total time of physical activity between both groups was the same. After exercise, especially vigorous, the kids would rest and thereby ‘compensating’ as the professor called it. The same has been seen in studies of elite athletes. So, what impact does this have on the current fitness industry trend of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) type training?
Finally, Jacques goes to great pains to mention that exercise is not bad and very briefly talks about the health benefits, of which there are many. For the lay person who might be a bit heavier than they want to be, this programme may have put them off exercise. Even if exercise is an inefficient method of weight loss, there are numerous health benefits that can be gained which I feel Jacques glossed over. Regardless, looking forward to the next episode next week on BBC2, Thursday @ 9pm.
* Have to laugh, when composing this article the ‘Related Articles‘ section in the bottom right gave some interesting suggestions.