By Jean Kottemann
March 14, 2014
It’s that season again; time to start thinking about how you’re going to get into your bathing suit, going to your high school reunion, attending some June bride, etc. etc. You are naturally panicked about losing as much weight as possible for the big event. Thank God for the internet and all those helpful exercise gifs bouncing around in your Facebook timeline.
But just which ones work and which ones are too much trouble? Here’s my ultimate, no holds barred, absolute cannot fail exercise to practice every day between now and the Big Event:
Exercise control. Self-control, appetite control, impulse control.
The truth is: EXERCISE IS THE LEAST EFFECTIVE WAY OF LOSING WEIGHT.
I saw my friend’s fitness watch the other day and it told him that because he ran three 10 minute miles, he was burning 530 calories per hour. First, there are too many variables for that to be accurate. Fitness watches (and other “calories burned” electronica) are designed to sell you the next upgrade of the fitness watch (or treadmill, or bike, etc.). Think those calorie counts are inflated?
Secondly, a guy his size burns around 120 calories an hour JUST SITTING ON HIS ASS. So for all his hard work in sustaining a 30-minute run, he burned 410 calories per hour more so than SITTING ON HIS ASS. His 30-minute run amounts to 205 extra calories burned. Congratulations! Here’s your cookie.
There are 3500 calories in a pound. If my friend ran 30 minutes every day, he would burn 1400 more calories a week than not running at all. At that rate, it would take him 25 weeks to lose 10 lbs.
Clearly this is an oversimplification, and there are so many important benefits to exercise other than weight control (I mean, I am a trainer, after all). However, it goes to demonstrate that a more effective way to lose weight, if that is your only goal, is to simply eat fewer calories. Given the above, an explanation why people sometimes lose weight when they start exercising is because that’s an hour a day that they are NOT snacking, for a change.
We are wondrously adaptive. It’s how we have survived as a species for so long. Consider that the more you exercise, the more efficient your body gets at burning the least number of calories to perform the same work! How impossible it would be for the human animal to still exist if we burned calories willy-nilly like our wrist devices tell us.
We’ve persisted through epochs of famine and starvation. Early man thrived on endurance hunts: running prey into the ground.
How could we burn 520 calories an hour running on an endurance hunt, which could last 10 hours long. That seems excessive; how does that work? You run the elk down for 10 hours, catch it, kill it, and then share it with EVERYONE IN THE CAVE. How does burning 5200 calories in a day-hunt justify — what, 150-ish calories per 3 oz. for wild game? How does that not make a calorie deficit? The math does not add up.
You and I, we are Priuses, not Hummers. We burn clean and we burn efficiently, and when we add in something mix that throws us off kilter, we adapt to burn efficiently all over again. The way to reduce in size is much more easily achieved by controlling the calories we eat, not what we expend.
So back to the #1 exercise that guarantees you will lose the most weight in the shortest amount of time: