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May 30, 2012



"I wondered whether exercise causes better health or if people with good health just enjoy exercising more."

Yep, spot on. Unlike a lot of your predictions, this is actualyl pretty good. Nice job.

I don't buy it. Measuring blood pressure is very problematic as it has super high variance. People generally need to be followed with blood pressure taken at various times throughout the day to establish a true measure. Studies almost never do this.

I looked at the study. It does not look at eating behavior at all. The 7% who responded poorly to exercise might have begun consuming more calories. Adverse response was not associated with exercise intensity. Though the study claimed that prior health status had no effect, the two groups with the average BMI in the obese range seemed to have the highest rate of poor response. My conclusion is don't get obese in the first place by **exercising** !

I gave up my gym membership a couple years ago as a cost cutting measure, and aside from a decrease in my upper body strength, noticed if anything a slight improvement in my overall health.

However, the main reason for the cost cutting was unemployment. The effects of unemployment are mostly not good, but it does mean that I am not sitting in a cubicle staring at a computer 40+ hours a week, and in a crowded subway car an additional half dozen hours a week. I have time to walk around during the day, go for an an occasional run, also prepare my own lunch. So I don't know what this example proves. I view the gym membership now as one of the hidden costs of being employed at a regular job.

Pre-industrial age I think people got plenty of "exercise" by just walking around, working outdoors, etc. It was only with the invention of office employment that people now had to set aside times and places to do something they used to do naturally. However, I suspect that controlling one's diet and avoiding stressful situations is much more conducive to overall health.

After reading Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories this doesn't surprise me much. The science behind the "consensus" viewpoints on dietary health that emerged over the past 50-60 years was based on very little actual data and a lot on which viewpoints were anointed by the US Government and big non-profit groups. What a surprise that scientists who were eagerly motivated by 'altruism' to promote ideas that would improve health turned out to be wrong and promoted ideas that have made the entire US fat as hell and more unhealthy than ever.

That's an interesting take. Have anyone actually controlled for that?


I agree, after the consensus has been SO WRONG on diet for 40 years, shortening and fattening the lives of millions, I am not surprised by this study. However, not all exercise is the same. Running marathons has already been shown to lead to early aging and heart disease, but short duration, *intense* strength training, with safe movements has been show to have a number of benefits. See Doug McGuff's Body By Science.


Exercise is basically useless for losing weight. I say this as a person who has been working out on a regular basis for the last five years. 10 hours a week doing weights and cardio yield basically no improvements in weight (though I did gain plenty of strength from lifting, but no reduction in presence of body fat).

Diet is almost 100% of the reason why the vast majority of people are overweight. There is no way that you can burn off more calories than you ingest, it's simply going to prompt you to eat more.

As soon as I adjusted my diet I lost significant weight with no effort. I actually get upset when I see fat girls at the gym because I know the secret to making them attractive again but the chances of them listening to a random guy approaching them at the gym and telling them to stop exercising and just cut out their intake of sugars and carbohydrates if they want to look good are almost nil.

I am deeply skeptical that people who are fit are driven to exercise by enjoyment. Historically, no one engaged in formal exercise; it was a byproduct of some other necessary activity. Then there was a time after the dawn of industrialization during which no one much exercised nor did people get much physical activity by accident. Think about people born in the 1910s and 1920s. During their working lives, there were few gyms, few joggers and nothing resembling the exercise culture that we have today. Except for a handful of extremists, fit people of this era did not exercise. It is not that exercise was not open to them -- any one could have gone outside jogging. No, it is that they had not the slightest interest in doing the strange and alien activity of exercising.

I have noticed too in Eastern Europe that exercise is still only gaining acceptance. There are some gyms, yes, but most people, including fit people, are not members and do not get some other regular form of exercise. If you see someone running outside, the person is almost certainly a Westerner, most probably an American. Of course, there are professional athletes and juiceheads, but these make up the bulk of the small group of people who get regular exercises. The 10-minute miler largely does not exist.

Exercise (and to a large extent all beliefs and practices about health) are cultural manifestations rather than biological ones. People who engage in exercise no more enjoy it than people who go to church enjoy getting up early on a Sunday morning to hear essentially the same sermon and sing the same cruddy songs over and over.

All exercise is not the same. I recommend The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler:

Aside from banging out a set of pushups and pull-ups every couple of days, I don't set aside any dedicated time for exercise. I do bike to work, run up flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator or walking up them, and walk to nearby businesses to do errands. I also have a stand-up desk at work so that I'm not sitting all day. I think that what I do is more effective than having a gym membership, mainly because the human mind regards it as a chore to exercise regular for its own sake, and will constantly develop ways to get out of it. If you can incorporate exercise into your daily tasks that you have to do anyway, you're more likely to do it regularly rather than just give up due to lack of discipline. If you get rid of your office chair and raise your desk, you have no choice but to stand to use your computer. Running up a couple flights of stairs isn't nearly as daunting as spending an hour at the gym.

Henry Ford said it best long ago in the early 1900's:

"Exercise is bunk. If you're fit, you don't need it. If you're ill, you shouldn't take it."

In Eastern Europe, everybody walks everywhere. A mile or two? That's a pleasurable stroll, not an ordeal.

True story: A Russian woman (studying in the USA) was dating an American man. She urged him to go for a walk by the river, so they did. She complained that nobody in America ever walks; he tried to defend his countrymen by saying that sometimes we do, and pointed out a middle-aged couple walking towards them.

She greeted them. They replied with Russian accents.

Russia 1, USA 0. :-\ It's not really that absolute, of course, but it illustrates the point beautifully.

Closer to the original topic -- we already knew that exercise is bad for people with certain health conditions. It's not the world's biggest leap to think that some people might respond badly to the (relatively) intense activity we call exercising. Not everyone is cut out to be a smith or a farmer. The village needed tailors and scribes, too, and those jobs require people who can remain alive and reasonably healthy in sedentary lifestyles. Couldn't that mix of genes still be with us?

In fact, my own example reminded me of a study from some years back which found that men with the last name of Smith had statistically significant upper body strength than men with the last name of Taylor. Still. After all these years. I'd like to see the study replicated, but it sure is interesting.

I'm intrigued by the idea that some of us were made to sit still and work with our hands and minds. Except for walking and ordinary lifting, of course. With the exceptions of the very old, the very young, and the very sick, those things aren't exercise -- they're life.

@ foad

There is a contradictory logic to claim that diet, not exercise, controls weight. The idea is that you shouldn’t exercise because it will make you eat more, so instead just eat less. How is it that we only control how much we eat when we don’t exercise? The logic can be reversed to say that eating less increases inactivity. The basic physics of weight change is that it is a function of calorie intake and calorie expenditure. However, fat acceptance advocates point out that appetite has a complex endocrinology. I think that fat acceptance, itself, promotes obesity because it changes mindsets to be less disciplined. Hence, obesity spreads like a virus through social networks.

Your experience somewhat matches mine because, when I try to lose weight, it is easier for me to eat less than exercise more due to my limited amount of time. Nevertheless, this study and the article about it are irresponsible. I noticed that The New York Times had to change the blog title from “Is Exercise Bad for You?” to something more accurate.

I wrote a short blog post to show the bar graphs that demonstrate that the obese suffer more often from exercise.


I think it’s useful to keep a list of scientific issues about which liberals are more likely to be wrong, and re-post it when liberals get self-righteous about the issues that they are right about, like global warming and evolution. Here is the list that I created:

IQ denialism, most alternative medicine, Out-of-Africa, Nubianism, fat acceptance, anorexia nervosa epidemic, multiple-personality disorder epidemic, tabula rasa, biological lesbianism, race denialism, sex differences denialism, AIDS conspiracy theory, vaccine conspiracy theory, pro-immigration anti-environmentalism, subliminal self-help audio (misapplied Freudianism), abortion for crime reduction, language of thought hypothesis, self-esteem therapy for aggression, Neandertal speciesism, recent time to most recent common ancestor, Y-chromosome extinction

A possible explanation for this is that fat tends to store toxins. If somebody is over weight and they begin a workout regimen, those toxins will begin stressing the system while they're simultaneously putting a bad system under stress with the workout.

Anybody who's obese should start with diet, and then gradually move into being more physically active.

Since I started suffering from both knee pain in sciatica, I too have been questioning the whole thing. I've spent the last 20 years trying to rehab from a skiing injury to my knee, and here I am.

Not to mention all the injuries runners experience, only to jump back in running again for that high.

In contrast, it seemed like the grownups I knew as a kid went out of their way to not exercise, yet went gracefully into old age upright and intact for the most part.


Boiling it down to an issue of calories in and calories out ignores the evidence that certain organisms can eat the same caloric quantity, yet one will stay lean while another grows fat. Pointing out that "Calories in / Calories out" model oversimplifies metabolism doesn't have anything to do with fat acceptance (Although fat people will always justify being fat for one reason or another, when they just need to change their eating habits).

What utter BS.

"exercise" is an invention of sedentary people. For all but the last few hundred years in rich countries exercise was everyday for hours.

The exercisers probably ate more crap and were probably sick to begin with and probably did the wrong sort of exercise for them.

"All medical research is rubbish" is a better approximation to the truth than almost all medical research.

In my case, exercise is essential to maintaining body weight and avoiding weight gain. If I try to control my weight using diet alone, oftentimes I overeat. It is very easy to overeat in this society where food is at your fingertips. I think if you don't exercise regularly, you'll eventually gain weight. Regular exercise helps to burn away any extra calories and makes weight loss much faster.

Exercise is as necessary to health as vitamin C.

The problem with this kind of research is always that the concrete reality is impenentrably complex and attempts to factor it will always fail.

Changing everything works. Changing one thing, adding or subtracting this or that doesn't.

There is still no appreciation among MDs that the post agriculture environment is artificial.

"They replied with Russian accents."

My development in SF is chock full of Russian speakers. They're all heavy, and I never see any of them walk more than a hundred yards or so to let the little dog do its biz.

When you question a mantra -- which is defined as a concept held as true and important by 99% of a given population --, you sound like a creepy loser or a madman to this very population, which explains why so few journalists, doctors and other influencers have attempted to debunk the "exercise" thing.

As KLO and Nicoali Yezhov said, historically, that is from the Low Middle Ages to the 1900s approximately, no one exercised; not even soldiers and officers. Exercise in soldiers was merely a byproduct of normal training, such as hitting a model with his sword or riding a horse with his coat of mail on. Organized or team sports? Even less! Playing football or rugby was considered low class, and avoided by nearly everyone. Some sport was practised by the higher classes, but they were solitary or two-player sports, and were not practised in the goal of keeping fit, and even less healthy.

In the Antiquity, this is more complex, but there is no report of ordinary citizens exercising in the stated objective to keep fit or healthy; it was more an aesthetical or "competitional" thing.

It is during the XXth century that gymnastics started to be talked about in the medical community and taught at school. And in the 1980s that the "mandatory exercise, any exercise, for everyone" mantra started to develop.

While it is self-evident that putting a strain on a muscle makes it bigger and more powerful (though, it doesn't last if the strain stops), exercise's impact on general health is far more dubious, and partakes in the progressive, liberal thought: a man who uses his brain or his body becomes smarter or more beautiful/strong/healthy.

A more rational, logical approach would be that since using a machine wears it down, it must be the same with the human body, which is a complex machine with a limited regeneration ability... running a marathon and expecting to be healthier afterwards strikes me as a gross mistake.

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