I just read about new research showing that exercise is more important than weight loss for good health and longevity.
In a recent column on Why You Can’t Just Pedal Off the Pounds I made these points:
- Overweight even slightly can increase your risk of dying prematurely by six percent and increases the risk by 73% for an obese person.
- Body Mass Index (BMI) estimates a person’s body fat based on the individual’s weight. As a cyclist you have more muscle and less fat than the average person. If you are five or ten pounds over what the BMI defines as normal you probably aren’t actually overweight because of your higher proportion of muscles. Ask your health care professional
- Basal Metabolism Rate (BMR) is how many calories per hour you burn when you’re inactive, e.g., asleep or on your computer. Your BMR remains stable between ages 20 and 60; and declines steadily after age 60. If you are gaining weight between age 20 and 60, it’s the result of your dietary and exercise habits, not your BMR.
- Energy compensation means our bodies tend to automatically compensate for at least a quarter of the calories we expend during exercise. In other words for every 100 calories you think you’re burning while exercising, you’re actually burning only about 75 calories.
- Eating less also important because of energy compensation when you exercise.
- Strength training significantly reduces the risk of gaining weight whether you do aerobic activities or not.
Why Exercise Is More Important Than Weight Loss
I read the report on new research on Fitness vs. Weight Loss and Obesity.
The researcher looked at “more than 200 relevant meta-analyses and individual studies. Then they set out to see what all of this research, involving tens of thousands of men and women, most of them obese, indicated about the relative benefits of losing weight or getting fit for improving metabolisms and longevity. In effect, they asked whether someone who is heavy gets more health bang from losing weight or getting up and moving.”
Glenn Gaesser, a professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University, led the study. “Compared head-to-head, the magnitude of benefit was far greater from improving fitness than from losing weight,” Dr. Gaesser said.
“Sedentary, obese men and women who begin to exercise and improve their fitness can lower their risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent or more, even if their weight does not budge. This improvement generally puts them at lower risk of early death than people who are considered to be of normal weight but out of shape, Dr. Gaesser said.”
“You will be better off, in terms of mortality risk, by increasing your physical activity and fitness than by intentionally losing weight,” he said. (New York Times)
Note that his research doesn’t indicate it’s healthy to be overweight just that if you are overweight increasing your fitness will improve your health more than losing weight.
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written over 40 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John’s full bio.
Not surprising, really. Exercise is a functional (active) indicator while weight per se is not.
There are many UNhealthy reasons (like disease or starvation) why people lose weight.