In a provocative article, "The Scientist and The Stairmaster", originally published October 1, 2007 in New York Magazine, Taubes writes, "The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine published joint guidelines for physical activity and health. They suggest that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week is necessary to "promote and maintain health."
What they didn't say, though, was that more physical activity will lead us to lose weight. Indeed, the best they could say about the relationship between fat and exercise was this: "It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling."
I wanted to hang myself with my jump rope.
Taubes notes rather curtly that there are other reasons to exercise: cardio benefits, maybe living longer, feeling better about ourselves (and I'd add, the lovely endorphins).
"But there's no reason to think that we will lose any significant amount of weight, and little reason to think we will prevent ourselves from gaining it."
And "More strenuous exercise doesn't help matters, because it builds up an appetite." So that's why I can eat a stack of pancakes the height of a garage after an hour on a treadmill.
Skeptics are welcome: he provides plenty of data to refute the casual chain between activity and weight reduction and discusses the historical roots of the exercise-to-reduce mind set.
Taubes's article disturbed me so much that when I first read it, I could not show it to a colleague who had lost almost 80 lbs. in about 8 months. A year later, just as he predicted, she has regained at least 2/3 of the weight, though she still works out rigorously. She does have a genetic predispositon, which he also explores.
I'll keep exercising an hour most days, because the other benefits are so valuable- the endorphins are a life support system for my mood.
But I don't think it's helping my weight much, and, reading Taubes, I now have an explanation.