She Climbs

Exercise: Separating Helpful Aspirations from Wishful Thinking

Belief in Exercise ChartWishful thinking about losing weight through exercise has the potential to backfire. A newly published study in Preventive Medicine by Diana Thomas, Ted Kyle, and Fatima Stanford gives good reasons for thinking twice before prescribing exercise for weight loss.

Prevention magazine is ready to sell you “The 8 Most Effective Exercises for Weight Loss.” Fitness clubs and home fitness machine marketers will show you plenty of before and after stories with amazing weight loss. Coke gained notoriety this summer for pushing exercise as the thing to focus upon for fighting obesity.

Discouragement with ExerciseAll of this is really unfortunate because physical activity has great benefits. It can help you live longer, feel better, keep diabetes and heart disease under control, put you in a better mood, and improve your sex life. It’s just not a great strategy for weight loss.

And the study by Thomas et al suggests that the lie is not harmless. They showed that the public has been led to believe that “exercise is a very effective way to lose weight.” But people who believe this distortion find themselves discouraged by the reality of how little effect exercise has on weight loss. Says Thomas:

We need to find ways to encourage physical activity without promoting a false belief that it’s a great way to lose weight.

Aspirations are the source of motivation. False promises are poisonous to aspirations. We have plenty of great ways to promote fitness and health without false promises.

Click here to read the study in Preventive Medicine.

She Climbs, photograph © Thomas Hawk / flickr

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October 26, 2015