Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Exercise ALONE Won't Make You Thin. Exercise ALONE. I'm ranting, FYI.

Yeah, I'm all riled up.

This article keeps rearing its ugly head, being emailed around offices, posted on Facebook pages, and sensationalized on the front pages of online news sources, letting people know that they can relax and go back to the Cheez-its because, thank GOD, exercise is a waste of time. It turns out that exercise won't make you thin after all. So that gym membership you bought back in January? You should have spent that cash on a new La-Z-Boy because exercise is good for nothing.

Okay, warning - I am really fired up about this so if I say something insentitive, just know that its because this is a passion point for me. But honestly, I've heard countless (incredibly unhealthy) people tout this argument for not exercising and claiming that exercise is a waste because it doesn't make you lose weight. Every time, I grit my teeth and smile and nod and try not to scream. But please read this part in a screaming voice:

Weight loss is not the only reason to exercise!!!!

Exercise ALONE may not cause you to lose weight. Keyword: alone. If you eat too many calories of crappy food, or even if you eat the appropriate number of calories of crappy food, and you exercise, you may not lose weight. That is true. Because exercise ALONE does not cause you to lose weight.

If you walk all day on a treadmill while eating fried twinkies, you may not lose weight. Because exercise ALONE does not cause you to lose weight.

That does not mean you should not exercise. Exercise because it increases your bone strength. Exercise because it elevates your mood. Exercise because it keeps your joints limber. Exercise because it makes your heart stronger. Exercise because it keeps your lungs strong. Exercise because it makes your calves look nice in high heels. Exercise because a good sweat makes you feel alive. Exercise because it postpones the effects of aging. Exercise because it lowers your blood pressure. Exercise because it makes you a nicer person. Exercise for the rosiness in your cheeks. Exercise because your health insurance reimburses your gym membership. Exercise to talk to the cute guy or girl on the elliptical. Exercise because you like how you look in running shoes. Exercise because it reduces your chance of developing cancer. Exercise because not everyone can. Exercise because you need some alone time. Exercise to crank up your iPod to your favorite song. Exercise because running up a hill feels so damn hard and so incredibly great at the same time. Exercise because coasting down a hill on your bike makes you feel seven years old again.

For years and years I exercised every day and didn't lose a pound because I ate crap. I still exercised because I enjoyed it and believed eventually it would work, but I spent a lot of time being bitter that even though my hours in the gym were great for my heart, they made no discernable impact on my waistline. Eventually I made the connection and realized that exercise ALONE would not make me lose weight: I had to get my nutrition in order as well. Once I did, wow. There are no words. The magical combination of clean eating and daily rigorous exercise is one that cannot be explained, only experienced. And sadly, as long as your only purpose for exercise is to lose weight, it will remain an exclusive club for those of us who understand that a lifestyle of wellness offers much much more than a single-digit clothing size. Sure, I could probably regulate my weight now with nutrition alone, but the other benefits of exercise far outweigh the side benefit of weight control.

Exercise may not make you thin, that's true. That's not why we exercise.


EDP said...

I'm really glad you said this. Frankly, I wonder what point some folks are trying to make by telling only half the tale — because as you said, the other part is that you also have to improve your eating. But Lord knows there's enough evidence of the benefits exercise provides above and beyond potential weight loss.

Anonymous said...

Mmmmm, fried twinkies....

You're a rockstar Heather!