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Stop The Weight Obsession: Real Talk About Exercise

Sep 29, 2021 | The Pointe

It is the 21st century and there is no debate to be had. Exercise reduces risk of disease which, in turn, reduces risk of mortality. Most importantly, however, it improves quality of life. “Quality of life” is a relative phrase and can mean different things to different people. When it comes to exercise, an improved quality of life comes in the form of simply feeling good.

A recent MedicalNewsToday article entitled, Obesity: Exercising, not dieting, may be key to avoiding health risks, not only states the obvious in its title, but references studies and meta-analyses about obesity, weight loss, disease risk, and exercise’s role. The overall tone of the article emphasizes the importance of cardiovascular fitness versus just losing weight.  Yes, losing weight will forever be a hot topic which is capitalized on by the fitness, diet, and supplement industries. If weight loss is your reason to exercise, then use it as motivation and stick with it. If you have been, are becoming, or are currently frustrated with pounds that don’t come off, stop the obsession. Start focusing on the feeling, reduced disease risk, and an improved quality of life.

A specific CDC statistic from the article points out that 42.4% of US adults were obese in 2017-2018 compared to 30.5% in 1999-2000. In the past 20-30 years, the amount of information available and (supposed) drive for our society to control body weight has been at its highest, yet obesity rates continue to grow. There is not one, simple answer as to why, but maybe looking at body weight from another perspective can help. Traditional school of thought says, “Obesity = Increased Disease”. There is no doubt there is a correlation. Since that simple bit of information doesn’t seem to discourage obesity rates, then maybe promoting another way is necessary. The “fat-but-fit” concept is alluded to in the article. The focus to increase exercise to improve health versus making the focus weight loss might help some of us. 

Another aspect of exercise and health that is widely underestimated is exercise intensity. Over the years the “something is better than nothing” approach has not served us well. Yours truly is guilty of substituting the words "physical activity" for the word "exercise." What’s the difference, right? Physical activity is going for a leisurely walk, planting flowers in the garden, flying a kite, doing the laundry, vacuuming and any other number of relatively light intensity activities, all of which can be mentally stress relieving. These types of physical activity are simply not exercise. Exercise, whether cardiovascular or strength, should be designed to tax your body above and beyond what it is used to performing. Only then will the body be forced to adapt and benefit from an improved fitness level. 

When you decide to undertake the exercise over physical activity approach, be sure that your exercise intensity is appropriate for you. Not everyone is ready to train for a marathon. Maybe training for a 5K run/walk is a better place to start. There is plenty of information about overuse risks with exercise. Some of those tidbits can be found in previous Pointe Fitness blogs. Don’t let that scare you into performing just "physical activity." Get out there and exercise. Your risk of mortality may depend on it.



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