Sorry, Exercise Doesn't Work
A few days ago, I was talking to a guy in the check out line at the grocery store. After discovering I worked in the fitness world, he asked about my favorite form of exercise. I shared with him my love of Yoga and how I think it’s one of the best things in the world for me (besides therapy and wine). The next question he asked me was the single most annoying question I often hear as a fitness profession.
I’ve heard this question more times than I can remember and I have yet to come up with a good answer, until recently.
His question was, “Does it work?”
If we were talking about a motor in a car or a battery in a cell phone, there is a simple way to answer the question; does the car or the cell phone turn on? Then yes, it works. As far as a form of exercise “working” for the human body, to be completely honest, I really don’t know because I don’t know what the exercise is trying to change or fix.
In my perfect fitness world, an exercise is “working” when it accomplishes pain free movement during daily activities, increase one’s daily energy, improve health markers and make one feel more comfortable in one’s own skin.
But alas, we’re not in my perfect fitness world and for the vast majority of people that ask this question they’re really asking one thing and one thing only:
Will this exercise make me lose weight?
Like most trainers, I used to hold true to the old calories in verses calories out theory. That is until about a year ago when I started to learn more and more about set point theory.
Then a few weeks ago I ordered a book from Amazon titled “Health at Every Size” and I can now say with an enthusiastic,
“NO”, yoga (and any other form of exercise for that matter) will not lead to any significant long-term weight loss.
I’ll let that sink in a little bit……
Exercise will not “work”.
Ok, you still there?
I want you to notice what you are feeling right now.
Angry, confused, defensive, pissed, defeated, sad?
Take note of this and I will continue (unless you have decided to not even bother with exercise at all anymore).
As much as we have been told for decades about how exercise is majorly important in the weight loss quest, there are no long-term studies to support this claim. In Linda Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size, she shares that most studies find that people who regularly exercise are only about 5 – 10 pounds lighter than those who are sedentary and that many studies have found women actually gained weight and body fat with exercise. (Yikes! Did I just kill my business?)
So why am I sharing this with you? Because not only am I tired of different forms of exercise being ranked in effectiveness based on the number of calories they burn per hour, I’m also tired of exercise being perceived only as a way in which to lessen the gravitational pull on the human body toward the earth (AKA weight loss).
In case it’s been a while, here is a list of benefits you can receive from exercise:
-Improving cell sensitivity to insulin, allowing you to burn more energy
-Improving sensitivity to hunger and fullness
-Increases fat-burning enzymes and decreases fat-storing enzymes
-Promotes better sleep
-Elevate Mood - decreases anxiety and depression
And above all, “exercise can cure, prevent, or minimize most of the major chronic diseases and disturbances, including diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, cancer, digestive disorders, circulatory disorders, ect” – Linda Bacon
With all these benefits it might make you scratch your head thinking wouldn’t these all would lead to weight loss?? As Dr. Bacon will share with you in her book (go get a copy), the human body is very protective at ensuring you don’t lose too much weight and it’s pretty keen to store excess weight in case of famine. Weight loss just isn’t something the body wants to do because its main goal is to preserve your life. The body is a great caretaker and protector. She also discusses in depth the role that hormones (like leptin), sleep, stress and a number of other factors influence our set point, but you can read it for yourself, HERE.
So I want you to go back to your initial, emotional response to my statement about exercise not working. If you felt disappointed, defeated, hopeless or even worthless, I want you to ask yourself why? Is it because you’ve dedicated so much time and effort toward your exercise routines? Is it because you feel like you’ve wasted your time chasing something that was never a real result in the first place? Or do you feel hopeless because you believe your only chance to be happy with your body is when you finally lose the weight? Therefore, if you never lose the weight, you can never be happy?
What if your ability to be happy didn’t lie at the end of some weight loss rainbow and what if your ability to be happy with your own body wasn’t based on your body’s weight?
Stop allowing the fantasy of weight loss to inhibit your ability to be happy in your body. You can choose happiness regardless of size, weight, age or shape.
It starts by embracing the radically courageous belief that you are enough.