Dec 10, 2021

New Report: Exercise Doesn’t Guarantee Weight Loss

At last! Academic research we can believe in!

By Ed Goldman

Two weeks from today, you may very well be partaking of Christmas dinner— so it’s with profound regret I report that if you exercise before as well as during or after you park in this annual overloading zone, none will help you evade an upward adjustment in your body mass index (BMI).

In fact, no matter the time of year nor food-themed celebration, no denomination of vigorous jogging, pushups, swim laps, mountain biking or Extreme Frisbee is likely to help you burn that many calories.

Edgy Cartoon

Running Dialogue

According to a recent New York Times story, “For every 100 calories we might expect to burn as a result of working out, most of us will actually burn fewer than 72 calories, according to an eye-opening study of how physical activity affects our metabolisms.” The data appeared in the newspaper’s weekly “Well” column.

“Well” indeed. Let’s unwrap this, as I’d like to believe Mr. and Mrs. Claus quip to each other before heading upstairs to their North Pole boudoir at the end of his yearly globe trot. (This column is nothing if not seasonal.)

First of all, except for those medical toothpicks they used when I underwent my cataract surgeries, nothing has ever proved “eye-opening” to me, least of all, the results of a study—since if you wait a little while, another will come along to completely contradict the findings (if not the certified outcomes) of the first one.

For example, I’m hoping for a study that will consider my bending over to pick up dropped car keys as an excellent cardiovascular exercise—especially if the writeup includes the cautionary note, “It is recommended that you do this only every so often, lest your heart rate mirror that of certain superheroes and cheetahs raised on a steady diet of smaller animals and amphetamines.”

More from that Times story: “The study finds that our bodies tend to automatically compensate for at least a quarter of the calories we expend during exercise, undermining our best efforts. The results also show that carrying extra pounds unfortunately compounds calorie compensation, making weight loss through exercise even more elusive for those who are already overweight.”

Swell. To read between the lines, this means if you’re not tubby and have no need to shed some groceries, you’d still be able to—by exercising.

But if you’re like the overweight majority of us, whose favorite song is “The Last Time Ever I Saw My Feet,” not even entering the Escape From Alcatraz  triathlon will restore the waistband that angrily resigned from your underpants close to a decade ago.

The new study referenced by the Times was conducted by the University of Roehampton in London, which immediately makes it suspect.  For example, in Health Survey for England, a different study which was conducted three years ago, “Thirty-one percent of adults”—in England, where they keep London—”were recognised as clinically obese, with a BMI greater than 30.”

“Adult obesity rates have almost quadrupled in the last 25 years,” the study added—uncharitably, in my opinion. But what can you expect from a country that misspells “recognized”?

To sum up:  My theory is that the new study was slapped together by a team of corpulent British research students who were trying to get out of going to gym class that semester. And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to suit up, throw on a sweat band and find my car keys.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).