Why Exercising Less Doesn’t Cause Long-Term Fat Gain


Hey everyone. Jonathan Bailor back with another awesome INTHEOS class coming here with some SANE solutions to common eating and exercise myths. Actually after our last class which if you haven’t seen, I’d highly recommend checking it out. We started talking about how exercising less is actually one of the keys to fat loss and long-term health, exercising less but smarter. We got some feedback and some questions from people that said wait a second, wait a second, I don’t buy it. I think you just have to be more active. I think that the more active you are, the leaner you are and I totally understand this. This is absolutely what I perceived to be true before I had the opportunity to see the data I’ve seen.

So I wanted to in this class really concretely explode some common myths that we have around this just eat whatever you want and be more active concept that is constantly promulgated in our society which is again everything in moderation. There’s no such thing as bad foods just bad quantities and frankly you can exercise it all off. So in today’s class I’m really going to equip you to free yourself from this idea that if you are just not constantly on the treadmill, if you’re not constantly in aerobics, if you’re not constantly in your gym that you’re doomed to a diabetic and obese fate because bottom line is that is just patently false. So let’s dig into the data and the data is important because there’s a lot of contradictory opinions out there. But biology isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s a matter of fact so why not stick to the facts so let’s do that.

So how can exercising less not cause long-term fat gain. Well first of all let’s start right from the beginning, the American Heart Association. So the American Heart Association, it’s hard to get more conservative and mainstream than them. But when they actually looked at the data, again data versus opinion, data versus intuition, often a big difference, right? Our intuition if we look out the window is that the world is flat. It looks like and if it wasn’t flat wouldn’t the people on the bottom fall off. But when we actually look at the data and we look at the science, we know the Earth is round and we know that gravity holds us on.

So what does the data actually say and what does the American Heart Association acknowledge the data as saying? Well here’s a quote directly from the American Heart Association, “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time compared to those who have low energy expenditures.” So far the data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling. One more time, “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time compared with those who have low energy expenditures.” So far data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling. And this is the same organization that tells us that we need to be active to maintain a healthy weight yet they themselves acknowledge that that is a hypothesis and when even they look at the data, the data doesn’t support it.

So let’s move on to big idea number 2. How can that possibly be true? That just seems so counterintuitive. But the data again is clear and that is that for example from Dr. Whitehead at St. George’s University in London tells us concretely that in his studies he found that most of these studies show that obese people do about the same amount of physical activity as lean people. And part of the reason this is true, and it’s intuitively true, is if someone for example weighs 300 pounds even if they’re let’s say 30 percent less physically active than someone who weighs 150 pounds, if a 150 pound person strapped another 150 pounds on their back and was 30 percent less active but still had to carry around 150 additional pounds while being 30 percent less active, they would actually burn more calories than if they were more active with less weight on their body.

So it’s important to understand that if someone is struggling with overweight or obesity the amount of calories and energy it takes for them to move at all is dramatically higher than if they were leaner. So first of all the data shows that individuals who are overweight and obese are not significantly less physically active and even if they were the net calories burned very well may have minimal impact when compared to a leaner person because again just like a big semi-truck is going to take more gasoline to move a mile than a motorcycle would, an individual who is carrying a lot of additional weight is going to require many more calories to move the same amount as someone who’s leaner. So even if they move less maybe they’re burning the same amount so maybe the issue is not the amount of physical activity they’re doing.

So how did we come to this flawed methodology that we’re at? So we alluded to this in the first class and this is this concept of aerobics and how we just need to do a bunch of aerobic exercise, and we need to jog, and all this kind of fun stuff. Well let’s take a step back because we’ve gone so far down one path and it just hasn’t worked as a society, right? We have a society now where 1 in every 3 children are overweight or obese where 70 percent of adults are overweight or obese so it’s not as if what we’ve been told is working. It’s obviously not so how did we get here?

So as we mentioned in the last class this idea of aerobic exercise which when the mainstream talks about exercise that’s what they’re talking about. They’re not talking about going in and lifting weights, they’re not talking about doing sprint training on a bicycle, they’re not talking about doing Pilates or yoga or walking. These are the types of activities that I encourage. They’re talking about aerobics jogging, doing things for half an hour or an hour at a time. The stuff that’s so boring that gyms have frigging entertainment centers to keep you entertained while you do this monotonous drudgery.

So the concept of aerobics did not even exist in the mainstream prior to the obesity epidemic, right? It was introduced by a gentleman by the name of Dr. Kenneth Cooper in a book called Aerobics back in 1968. Now prior to that it’s really interesting to look at how the mainstream and the scientific community perceived exercise in general because today, at least in the United States, exercise is just thought of as something everyone needs to do. That wasn’t always the case. If you type in on the Internet 1950s exercise, you’ll see pictures of all — it was thought of a weird kind of fringe cultish thing. No one did it and that’s actually still true in a lot of parts of the world. People don’t go to gyms. It’s thought of as a weird fringe activity.

In fact, in the research community when we talked to Dr. [Eton, sp?] at the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University she tells us that the common view, now this is a direct quote, in the 1930s and 40s was that high volume endurance training was thought of as bad for the heart and through the 50s and 60s exercise was thought of as not to be useful and actually harmful to women. So not only did people just patently not do aerobic exercise prior to the obesity epidemic, but individuals as a whole and especially women were told they shouldn’t do this because the scientific community believed it to be damaging. Now that’s not necessarily true, but it’s important to understand because if the mainstream is going to throw out terms like the reason we have an obesity epidemic is because we’re not doing enough aerobic exercise and people did less aerobic exercise and in fact thought it was bad for them prior to the obesity epidemic then again how could the lack of something that we did less of prior to us having an obesity epidemic, it just doesn’t make sense, right?

So let’s dig into some more data and this is data that is just mind bending and it’s freeing and it allows us to take a more healthy and effective look at exercise. So we are currently, America, is the sixth heaviest population on the planet. So most people think we’re the first, we’re not. We’re down a little. We’re more comfortable at level 6. But it is important to note that there is no country in the world that is as exercise obsessed as America at all. Go to Canada, go down south to Mexico, go anywhere and the idea of I wake up three hours early to go to the gym every day and everyone has a gym membership, it is just not the way the world works. It’s how America works, but it’s not the way the world works. And again how could it be that in America, a country where the data is clear we are exercising more than anyone else in the world and our percent of Americans who are engaging in exercise and joining gyms is continuously going up as the obesity epidemic numbers rise. All right so if aerobic exercise was the key to ending the obesity epidemic which is what we’re told then how is it that the most aerobically exercising country in the world is the sixth fattest country in the world? It doesn’t add up.

And then there’s an idea that we are just lazier so let’s say it’s not about aerobic exercise. Let’s say Jonathan, okay, whatever, we’re aerobically exercising more. Sure I’ll grant you, but aren’t we just being lazier? For example, we have all these domestic niceties such as dishwashers and vacuum machines that we didn’t have prior to the obesity epidemic and it’s because of these things, this general lack of activity, that we have become fatter and fatter. Now this is a very, very interesting point but again it’s wrong and it’s clearly wrong once we look at the data. So let’s look at the data.

When we talk about dishwashers and we talk about washing machines and vacuum cleaners these do, I mean to be very clear, using a non-electric vacuum machine, washing your clothes with one of those old school metal things that’s hard labor hard physical labor. But the modern dishwashers, vacuum machines, and those types of labor saving devices these actually aren’t new, right? These were introduced post War World 2. These were introduced most significantly between 1945 and 1965. So if we want to say, hey it’s these labor saving devices, it’s us not doing these labor intensive domestic chores anymore that’s the real reason. Okay, well if that was true then wouldn’t it also be true that when we saw those labor saving devices really sweep the country, so it’s 1944 people aren’t using those, it’s 1965 everyone’s using those. During that time period if that was the cause of the obesity epidemic wouldn’t we expect the obesity rates to spike during that time period? We would, but they didn’t. In fact, they were quite flat during that time period.

In fact between 1978 and 1998 when we saw some of the largest increases in the obesity epidemic people already had all of those labor saving devices by 1978, right? The only innovations we’ve seen since 1978 have to do with technology not labor saving devices so things like Internet, cell phone, yah dah, yah dah, yah dah. So when those labor saving devices saturated the market obesity didn’t go up and once the market was already saturated with them that’s when we saw obesity go up, interesting. Again challenges that a preconceived notion and it’s cool how data can free us because it can help us to move on to other more productive mindsets. So let’s dig even deeper with more of these consciousness raising data points allowing us to question things and take a smarter approach.

So let’s go back to the American Heart Association. So we talked about how once we dig into the data and abandon hypothesis even the American Heart Association tells us the data does not support this. We’re just less active and because we’re less active, we’ve become fatter. The data just simply doesn’t support that and even researchers — so there’s a researcher who is a brilliant researcher, her name is Dr. Marion Nestle at New York University or a university in New York, it may not be New York University, and she is super well-respected in the community and she looked at the data herself. And she tells us that the activity levels of Americans have changed a little, if at all, between the 1970s and the 1990s. So again during the 1970s and 1990s, there was a huge spike in obesity rates and it’s reasonable to just say oh we’re less active because it’s easy to be like oh there’s computers, we watch TV, but no. I mean people watch TV in the 1970s and 80s as well and their activity levels, when we actually look at the data didn’t decrease. So that cannot be the explanation and let’s dig into TV specifically.

So that’s TV screen time. It’s very easy for people to dismiss the really interesting conversation we’re having here because they’re like look TV makes you fat/screen time, get your kids out from behind the screen and they won’t be obese anymore. Now again as we talked about in the first class this class isn’t a blank check to just sit in front of the screen all day. It’s not to say that sitting in front of the screen is a good thing for you, but it is saying that sitting in front of the screen is not the cause of the obesity epidemic so let me explain that here for you.

So researcher Tsinghua University, Seth Roberts actually again looked at the data specific to TV and tells us that TV watching increased most significantly specifically by 45 percent between the years of 1965 and 1975. So a huge spike in screen time, huge spike. During that time period between 1965 and 1975, we saw very little increase in the rates of obesity whereas between 1975 and 1995 obesity shot up and TV watching increased only a little. And if you think about between 1975 and 1995 again obesity rates are shooting up, TV time isn’t so we have to question that, right? I know it’s kind of an inconvenient truth because it can be comforting to think that we get it. Don’t spend as much time behind monitors, but we try that and we put on our fuel band or fit bit and we walk more and then we just end up frustrated because it doesn’t work. So again an intuitive answer that is wrong and not helpful might be comforting at first, but it is counterproductive in the long-term so again very simple data disproving this TV watching. When TV watching increased the most, obesity increased very little. And when TV watching remained constant, obesity shot up boom out the window, we’ve got to move on to Smarter Science.

So here’s the actual cause, the cause is that what we have seen is right when the obesity epidemic started basically we started to see a compositional change in our food system. So instead of eating food, we started eating processed edible products. It’s not a question of calories, it’s a question of where we’re getting those calories from. They have fundamentally changed and this is unambiguous. If you look at basically all epidemiological studies, studies where we observe cultures, anytime you take a culture and you take them off their traditional diet and you start to put them on a more processed diet it doesn’t matter how little time they spend behind scenes, it doesn’t matter how much they jog, it doesn’t matter how many aerobics classes they go to they are putting stuff into their body that the body is not designed or did not evolve, depending on your belief system, to handle and because of that they get sick. It does not need to be any more complicated than that.

If you do not want lung cancer, the answer isn’t to smoke shorter cigarettes and jog more the answer is simply to breathe in clear air, right? And that doesn’t mean we outlaw cigarettes and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person if you smoke cigarettes, but what it does mean is it’s irresponsible for experts to tell us that if our goal is to avoid lung cancer that what we should do is continue to smoke cigarettes or maybe smoke cigarettes in moderation. Just smoke cigarettes in moderation and then jog more because jogging is clearly good for your lungs, right? No, that is the metaphor we need to use when we think about exercise and our metabolic system. It’s very, very similar and you can see again how exercising more is not the treatment to smoking cigarettes because cigarettes provide low quality air into your body. Low quality food into your body has the same toxic and addictive effects and jogging more doesn’t solve that either.

But then we get back to the final two big ideas which are again coming back and being very clear about what we are and what we aren’t saying here. So this isn’t don’t be active, right? So this isn’t that exercise doesn’t have any heart healthy benefits, it does. So exercise absolutely has heart healthy benefits, but there are forms of exercise that don’t have any of the negative consequences we’ve talked about so far that even more heart healthy benefits. So the question is not again does exercise have any benefits, it does. The question is how can we maximize the benefits of exercise and minimize the costs. So for example does jogging have any cardio protective impact? It does. It absolutely does, yes but jogging is also very hard on your joints.

So what if we could find a form of exercise that as much if not more cardio protective effect as jogging and had no negative impact on our joints? Well, that’s what science is showing us these smarter forms of exercise. So again it’s not the pooh pooh exercise, it’s just to be very specific and deliberate about the types of exercise we do. Sometimes people will ask me – actually not people, my brother specifically. My brother started boxing for a while and he said, man boxing is a great workout but my head sure hurts and I just had to laugh to myself because of course yeah boxing is a great workout, but there is probably ways to get a workout that don’t require you getting punched in the face over and over and over again, right. So a lot of these forms of exercise are a little bit like when you think about jogging, you’re literally punching your spine in the face over and over and over again because your feet are pounding up and down on the pavement. So again not that it’s – it does, right. Boxing burns calories, it’s probably good for your heart but it’s not so good for your head. Jogging, we’ve talked about the calories. It might be good for your heart, but it may not be great for the rest of your body especially when there are smarter alternatives.

So let’s wrap this up with big idea number 10 which is focus on the facts and two facts that I want to close with that I think really empowering again. Not my opinion, this is coming straight from the scientific literature very modern, very recent literature. So this comes from a report from July of 2013 by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. They found, quoting directly, “As physical activity increased between 2001 and 2009 so did the percentage of the population considered obese.” So fact, activity increased between 2001 and 2009 so did the percent of the population considered obese. Maybe we should look other places for the answer to the obesity epidemic and let’s continue with the 2004 University of Copenhagen study which showed that this study did not support that physical inactivity is associated with the development of obesity, but that obesity may lead to physical inactivity.

Similarly, Dr. Brad Metcalfe who’s a researcher at the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Peninsula Medical School concluded in a 2011 study quoting, “Physical activity appears to be the result of fatness rather than its cause.” So physical inactivity appears to be the result of fatness than its cause, this reverse causality may explain why attempts to tackle childhood obesity by promoting physical activity have been largely unsuccessful. So lots of great data here to question our assumptions and to empower us to take a smarter approach to exercise.

We’ll certainly dig deeper into this in future classes, but if you just can’t wait and want more information now feel free to hop over to sanesolution.com. Again, that’s sanesolution.com and you can learn all about this smarter exercise which gives you all the benefits of this conventional form of exercise, but with none of the negative consequences and in dramatically less time. I’m Jonathan Bailor and remember stay SANE.