Wednesday, October 08, 2008

An APPEAL to end exercise-only obesity interventions!

(Or why it's not about exercise)

The study is entitled, "A Program Promoting Exercise and Active Lifestyle". In it, 196 overweight (average BMI nearly 30) carefully selected for motivation and affinity to start exercising individuals were asked to exercise at moderate to vigorous intensity for 60 minutes a day, 6 days a week, for a year! To ensure objectivity, subjects were provided with logbooks and heart rate monitors and adherence was excellent. Men in the study averaged 370 weekly minutes of exercise, and women 295.

Subjects were not instructed to make dietary changes.

So if weight loss were about exercise, certainly you would expect that after a year of an hour a day, 6 days of week of exercise, that weight would be lost in a dramatic manner.

The results?

Over the course of the year, men lost an average of 3.5lbs and women 2.6lbs.

Readers of my blog will know that I'm all for exercise - reason being is that it's one of the single most important determinants of health and that doing it psychologically bolsters patients who've lost weight and helps them keep their focus on their weight loss behaviours (including dietary changes).

Clearly what it won't do is by itself lead to dramatic weight loss.

Therefore I would argue that studies and public health interventions for obesity that focus exclusively on exercise or increasing day to day activity can no longer be considered ethical as we know that the outcomes will be dismal. My other concern of course is that since we know these interventions are doomed to failure, by throwing public health care dollars at interventions whose success will be measured on the basis of weight, we're going to drain the pot of public health dollars for obesity treatment and potentially make it less likely to receive funding in the future from once burned, twice shy stretched federal, provincial and municipal governments.

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  1. Anonymous10:14 am

    Excercise - good for your heart, not your belly!!

  2. I would be curious to know what kind of shape they were in before and after the test. Where they in physically better shape after? Did all this training build up muscle? Or did all this exercise do nothing for there shape?

  3. They were in better physical shape and did lose a small amount of inches around the waist. By memory I believe it was a lost of 3/4 of an inch around the average waist.

  4. I think more and more studies show that it's not weight as much as lifestyle, and you're better off being able to exercise but still be heavy than be thin, flabby, and tired.

    That being said, I have to restrain my eating to lose the pounds, no matter how much I'm exercising.

  5. Anonymous11:18 am

    Is there a source for the study so I can read it? :)

  6. Source wise - not yet. It was a paper presented at last week's Obesity Society Annual Scientific Assembly. Usually that means publication within the year.

  7. I'm in favor of ending obesity interventions altogether -- let's focus on exercise interventions that are meant to improve health, regardless of weight outcomes.