If you read my blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of butter and heavy cream, but not so much into things like jogging (shudder) or volleyball (God forbid! I avoid all sports with objects that fly through the air.)
While I think exercise is generally a good thing, I think most people put way too much emphasis on it. I like to swim occasionally, I love gardening and going for walks, and I even lift weights now and again. I enjoy riding a bike, too.
But you are never going to catch me spending all day at the gym wearing one of those itty bitty track suits. I'd much rather be doing something else — like making Hollandaise sauce or reading a book. (Actually that's the one reason I like lifting weights — I can read while I do it.)
I found some really interesting articles on a blog I absolutely love, Whole Health Source. It's written by a scientist named Stephan, a doctoral candidate in neurobiology. But he doesn't write like a scientist. Most of his articles are very accessible and easy to read.
He has analyzed the topic of exercise and obesity in some depth and has come to some interesting conclusions. Conclusions that are in line what I have always suspected.
Let's run through some of them. I'll provide the links to his articles so you can click over and read more.
How Important Is Exercise For Weight Loss?
Not very. His findings are that exercise is not very effective for weight loss, that diet is much more important:
I think it's clear that the relationship between exercise and weight is not very tight. In my opinion, diet has a much larger influence on weight than exercise. Doing low-intensity “cardio” on a treadmill is almost totally ineffective for weight loss. Source: Exercise and Bodyfat
In that same article, he writes about traditional cultures who were, contrary to popular belief, not as active as we think. Here he quotes anthropologist Dr. John Murdoch describing the Inuit Barrow:
“They are large eaters, some of them, especially the women, eating all the time…” …during the winter the Barrow women stirred around very little, did little heavy work, and yet “inclined more to be sparse than corpulent”
Is Inactivity To Blame For Obesity?
No. In the article, Exercise Didn't Keep Us From Getting Fat, Stephan writes:
…from 1975 to 2006 is that the number of inactive people has diminished in that same time period from 50% to 24%.
So we've become more active over the past 30 years — and yet we've become fatter.
I'm certainly not blaming the obesity problem on an increase in physical activity, but I do think we can safely rule out inactivity as the reason we've gotten fatter. In my mind, this only leaves one major possible cause for the obesity epidemic: changes in diet.
If you're still not convinced, check out this post: U.S. Weight, Lifestyle and Diet Trends, 1970- 2007. He compiled statistics on U.S. weight, health and lifestyle trends, and put the data on graphs. They span the period from 1970 to 2007, during which the obesity rate doubled.
In this post, Stephan points out that “The percentage of Americans who report exercising in their spare time has actually increased since 1988 (BRFSS).” Again, we're getting more exercise but we're still getting fatter.
So What Made Us Gain Weight?
We saw an increase in carbohydrates, specifically white flour and sugar (and high fructose corn syrup). We also ate less animal fats and replaced them with vegetable oils.
Between 1970 and 1980, something changed in the U.S. that caused a massive increase in obesity and other health problems. Some combination of factors reached a critical mass that our metabolism could no longer tolerate. The three biggest changes in the American diet since 1970:
- An increase in cereal grain consumption, particularly wheat.
- An increase in sweetener consumption.
- The replacement of meat and milk fat with industrial vegetable oils, with total fat intake remaining the same.
Mainstream America has done to itself what it did to native American and other indigenous cultures worldwide, with the same result.
I'm not saying you shouldn't exercise, and neither is Stephan. What I am saying (and I believe his findings corroborate my position) is that diet is much more important.
Get rid of the industrial foods, go back to a traditional diet (eat more butter, animal fats and avoid refined, processed foods like white flour, sugar and high fructose corn syrup), and you'll lose weight naturally, and keep it off — just like our ancestors did. And you won't have to spend endless hours on a treadmill.
Should you still exercise? Sure! But do something you enjoy. Go for walks or play in your garden. Don't beat yourself up because you hate going to the gym. Life is short and it should be lived to the fullest. And treadmills are not, in my opinion, a fun and rewarding activity.
Hollandaise sauce, on the other hand… I'd call that extremely fun and rewarding.
This post is a part of the Natural Cures Carnival on Hartke is Online. To read more posts about exercise, visit the Hartke Is Online blog.
Photo credit: Flickr
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