What TIME Magazine Doesn’t Know About Exercise

time magazine why exercise won't make you thin

Last month, TIME magazine ran an article which claimed that due an increase in post-workout appetite, exercise is not an effective weight loss technique.

Understandably, this created a furor in the fitness/weight loss industry.

Fitness gurus were seen all over tv and the internet sputtering about how the author didn’t have his facts straight and that he didn’t know what he was talking about and blah, blah, blah.

Essentially, they were worried that they were going to lose business because of this article.

And they probably did.

But, was it fair? Was the article correct? Is exercise ineffective as a weight loss tool?

Let’s look at the science.

The TIME article was based on the findings of a single study conducted on obese, postmenopausal women.

The study concluded that:

In this study of previously sedentary, overweight or obese, postmenopausal women we observed no difference in the actual and predicted weight loss with 4 and 8 KKW of exercise (72 and 136 minutes respectively), while the 12 KKW (194 minutes) produced only about half of the predicted weight loss.

However, all exercise groups had a significant reduction in waist circumference which was independent of changes in weight.

So, let me get this straight.

  1. The majority of women in this study lost weight as predicted.
  2. And all of the women saw a reduction in waist circumference.

And the author neglected to mention that postmenopausal women are prone to weight gain due to hormone changes. Much more prone to weight gain than the majority of the population.

Strange.

It’s almost like the author of the article started with a conclusion and went looking for some research to back him up.

Perhaps he should have wrote about this study, which shows that exercise improves:

  • body weight,
  • BMI,
  • waist circumference,
  • body fat mass and percentage,
  • insulin sensitivity/resistance,
  • fasting blood glucose,
  • fasting serum insulin
  • and systemic inflammation

Perhaps they should have written about that study

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8 comments

  1. Hi, I agree with you. Telling that exercise doesn’t matter looks like a joke.Ofcourse, there is some practical approach by times, but it is onesided and your post opened up the other side.nice post!

  2. I think exercise has many merits, weight loss is one of them, but I see the primary function of exercise to be more for health and fitness. I also think it’s a lot better at maintaining a weight, then losing it.

    For example I have been able to lose a load of fat with just exercise alone and I think everyone should do it, but I am at a very real intersection where food is becoming the most important part of my routine if I want to actually get into the best shape (and lose all the fat).

    At first I thought I could just exercise like crazy every day of the week with various activities like HIIT, weights, steady state cardio, martial arts training, walking my dog, etc.. and then eat anything I wanted and it would just take care of itself. I’d be lean, strong, and have the body I wanted. WRONG. Right now I am still exercising like crazy, but I can at best maintain my weight within ~5lbs without looking at diet. Even working with diet I am having difficulties finding that proper energy balance (and hunger) for the demands heavy exercise puts on me. Sometimes I think I could cut back to very minimum exercise, go on a low carb diet, and be able to reach my weight goal much easier. I can’t do low carb now because I can’t recover fast enough without carbs day to day, and without recovery there is no intensity, and without intensity it is not worth doing IMHO. So I will just have to play with this formula until I get it right.

    Basically, I say exercise is great and very needed, but if you’re not into fitness for a sport or just a fitness enthusiast in general, you could probably do minimal exercise to get the health benefits along with a tiny bit of weight loss help and be better off than trying to do an extraordinary amount of exercise and balance out the diet to meet your energy needs, while simultaneously lose the pounds.

    So I guess I agree with both views…

    -Matt

  3. Good job. Perhaps the only good thing that could come out of this article is that folks will come to realize how important nutrition is to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. I know far too many people who think that 30-40 minutes on the treadmill means they can eat whatever the heck they want the rest of the day. Heck, even I (a person well aware of the importance of good nutrition) hear a little voice whisper post workout, “You must have burned like 300 calories with those sprints, why not grab a bag of M&Ms?!”

  4. This is a great article. It actually inspired me to write about the same issue on my blog . The more people that look at the real benefits of exercise and the psychological effects of moderate exercise, the better. How much longer are we going to be an all or none society when all we need is a small change made every day?

  5. One more thing we have not discussed and that is the body’s ability to adapt to exercise over time. When I first started training martial arts, I lost 20lbs very fast, then another 15lbs over an extended period, and then I quit losing weight all together even though I had a ton more weight to lose.

    The body adapts sometimes too well to exercise, it’s the same reason you hear about the aerobics instructor getting a little pudgy, even though she runs classes all day and performs them well. Their body becomes so adapted and efficient in regards to the workout that it’s no longer using the same amount of calories to complete the same amount of work. Another example is when you first start to run your arm and leg movements maybe somewhat wild, as you run for a long time they become compact and efficient, thus requiring less energy (along with some cellular efficiency improvements I am guessing).

    This also tends to support times somewhat flawed theory that exercise makes you eat too much. At first you can probably get away with eating a little more than normal because you’re burning more than normal and it may even spike your metabolism somewhat, but as your body adapts the issue of calorie surplus takes over and can start to negate the benefits if diet is not kept in check.

    I have not looked hard, but I wonder if there is any research to estimate the range of adaptations or guidelines for activity, perhaps with some understanding of this exercise can become much more efficient for all of us. I assume this is why it’s always best to change up your workouts over time. It not so much to “keep your body guessing” as many say, but I think it is to combat your body’s efficiency at specific exercises.

    -Matt

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