This is very important information for anyone with a few pounds to lose. While exercise is the second most important factor in one’s general health (the first being stopping smoking), new research is showing that exercise does little to actually help you lose weight. Yes, exercise does burn calories, but unfortunately, but there are a few caveats. Once we start to exercise, we generally also start to eat more, and perhaps sabotage our efforts in other subconcious ways. These are called “compensatory behaviors”.
The study in 2012 on the Hadza hunter gatherer tribe in Africa was very interesting. These people are very active, they are lean, and obesity is unheard of. The study looked at their calorie intake and expenditure. The study used a very scientific method (iostope decay in urine), and found no difference in the calories burned compared to westerners. The team ran several analyses accounting for the effects of body weight, body fat percentage, age, and gender. In all analyses, daily energy expenditure among the Hadza hunter-gatherers was indistinguishable from that of Westerners. Yes they were far more physically active, yet burned the same (or fewer) number of calories. Clearly this was a surprise.
There are many large and powerful corporations who would like us to continue to consume their high calorie and unhealthy products in spite of the obesity epidemic. They are some of the loudest voices chanting the exercise mantra, the idea being that we can continue to consume their products if we would just exercise enough. This study shows this to be false.
The study is NOT saying that physical activity is not important for health — clearly it is — but it does not appear to be the main cause of obesity. So YES we should all exercise for general health, and try to make some dietary changes (like eat less carbs and more fiber) for improved weight control.
This information will surely help me put the effort where it counts most.
Some additional links for reference, and watch the video below:
Debunking the Hunter-Gatherer Workout
Hunter-gatherer Study Proves We’re Not Fat Because We Sit, But Because We Eat
Did hunter-gatherers really spend more energy than modern humans?