Refuting John Cloud’s “The Myth About Exercise” on TIME Magazine: There is no Myth about exercise

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Seriously, TIME, you were once a well-respected bi-weekly magazine in my eyes. I loved reading you as a kid in bathrooms and I continue to skim through you once a while. What caught my attention recently was John Cloud’s article “The Myth About Exercise: How exercise really won’t make you lose weight. It’s what you eat that counts.” Fact– exercise will make you lose weight, instantly. You sweat– you lose weight, albeit it’s water weight. This was found on the cover of the August 17th, 2009 issue.

On page three are these quotes:
“Not working out: Exercise is no way to lose weight.” I agree with this in that if you want to lose weight, you also have to eat moderately– that is eat healthy. Exercise can often lead to weight gain– but that doesn’t mean it’ll make you fat– lean muscle weighs more than fat.

Found on the same page is this Health: “Exercise seems a surefire– if painful– way to lose weight. Yet research is starting to show that it may actually be helping pack on the pounds.”

Seriously, TIME Magazine and John Cloud– you present us with research that states the correlation between exercise and wanting to snack on junk food. Hence, people actually gain more weight than they lose when they snack on the junk food. Does this mean exercise is making you fat? No, it just means you should stay off the junk food. There is no myth about exercise and it doesn’t take a whole bunch of specialists and top-notched researchers to tell us that junk food is bad for you– but why the heck do you have to correlate it to exercise? People who skim the article might immediately think that exercise is bad for you and resort back to their sedentary lifestyles. As a physical therapist, I am all about people exercising and losing weight. Do you know how many obese Americans I’ve had to lift with my 5’2 frame in the past? And do you know how many patients I’ve had lose weight with exercising? Come on, it’s no way to get good sales by dissing exercise. You might as well just tell people to starve themselves to lose weight instead of exercising. Besides, that’s the fastest, surefire way to lose weight– don’t eat. Then you just end up really sick, dead, or very fat again as you over-eat to pack the pounds back on.

Quote found on page 43: “Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?” No, it’s not exercise. It’s your own willpower, smarty-pants. John Cloud states that he gets hungry after exercising and so he eats, and he hasn’t been able to get rid of his gut after exercising all these years.

Page 44, you have a diagram of a muffin and what you have to do to burn off the muffin: 360 calories. You have to either mow the lawn for 66 minutes, go skating fast for 21 minutes, lift weights for 115 minutes, etc… the real morale of the story is don’t eat that muffin, not skip the exercise like John Cloud is trying to say. Why are you giving exercise a bad name? By the way, you should also add, hours of sex to calorie burning, it’s a favorite amongst women now. You know, after vigorous sex, people get hungry too… so should they also avoid sex in order to lose weight? Why is it that “scientists” and “researchers” appear to be the dumbest creatures to walk the face of this Earth? Why not use the money you’re funded to do research like how we can stop global warming and save our planet?

Page 44: “it [exercise] can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which can in turn negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued.” Of course you get hungry after a work out– your muscles need ATP to work and by exercising, you’ve burned sugar and energy that your muscles are crying for now. Research has also shown that exercising improves your metabolism, so that you of course get hungry faster– you also burn the food down faster. Think of it this way– if a patient with diabetes needs an insulin shot in the arm, you don’t exercise that arm immediately after the shot– exercise will cause the insulin to “work faster”, thus by burning the sugar quickly in the patient and the patient will be hypoglycemic– too low in sugar.

Page 46 brings evolution into the picture. “If evolution didn’t program us to lose weight through exercise, what did it program us to do? Doesn’t exercise do anything?” Don’t even get me started on evolution. When humans first walked the face of this Earth, we did not have cars and concrete floors. Humans had to hunt for a living. They were nomadic, they were farmers, they were constantly toiling. They ate fruits and fresh meat. They didn’t have junk food and processed saturated fats, cheese fries, and pizzas.
What did they do for fun? They had sex (hence your grandparents have so many children). They played primitive sports (Mayans played ball with decapitated heads). They ran away from predator animals. They built their own homes from scratch. They didn’t drink beer on Fridays, sit in front of computers typing all day, and stuff their faces with sweets and junk when they’re depressed.

Humans are programmed to hunt and gather. We’re programmed to walk on our bare-feet and we’re programmed to run, walk, jump, and move. Now that we have supermarkets, we don’t have to go hunting. We have concrete grounds we have to walk on. Why do we have messed up feet? We were programmed to walk on soft lands, not artificial hard floors. As we become sedentary, we pack on the pounds– and the more obese people get hip and knee pain sooner. But I digress…

People who exercise regularly, try eating an apple instead of fast food and ice cream after a work out. You’ll see the results fast. Exercising will tone your muscles and shrink the fat cells in your body.

Page 47: “Some research has found that the obese already “exercise” more than the rest of us.” How do they exercise? Because I see people who are obese everywhere I go, and they can hardly walk a block before they huff and puff. Their eating habits are horrendous. If they start dieting and not exercising, sure they’ll lose weight, but they’ll have skin hanging off of them. And if you don’t exercise, you’re muscles become atrophied, your joints stiffened. My patients are of the ages of 0-99 and exercise can do so much for you– more than just “losing weight.” Without exercise, my patients with stroke would not have recovered so quickly. My patients with knee replacements would not be able to walk so briskly and “normally.”

I am highly disappointed with the scientific mumble-jumble in this article. You’ve put the blame that should be on junk food on exercise. As a physical therapist, I see the benefits of exercise daily. It brightens a person’s mood. It increases their metabolism. Don’t you know people who are stick-thin and tell you they eat almost every hour? They eat more than their “obese” counterparts. It’s not how much they’re eating, but what they’re eating. And I have girl friends who all go to the gym. I don’t exercise regularly– ironic for a physical therapist– and thus, I weigh more than all my gym-going friends.

Case closed. I don’t understand how articles as silly as The Myth About Exercise can be published. It enrages gyms, shows like the Biggest Loser, physical therapists, exercise enthusiasts, and personal trainers all over the world!

TIME Magazine, you’ve hit a new low. And regarding the Swine Flu pandemic hitting America– I’ve already blogged about that in April.

70 thoughts on “Refuting John Cloud’s “The Myth About Exercise” on TIME Magazine: There is no Myth about exercise

  1. THANK YOU!
    I am really disappointed TIME would run this story. I wish your article could be published in the next TIME mag!

    • I want to echo the echoes and thank the refuter for the page by page breakdown of this article. Personally I’ve lived the weight loss from exercise story dropping my first 25 lbs simply by lifting weights and 13 years later (a total of 50 lbs) is still off. The point at which I knew John Cloud didn’t know what he was writing about was the suggestion that one could convert fat into muscle. It further shocked me that TIME editors/fact checkers didn’t catch this. With such shoddy work, how can we rely on anything published in TIME?
      -Bajai

  2. Thanks so much for responding to this =) I was skeptical when I heard about the TIME article.

    I’ve lost so much weight by making minor adjustments to my eating habits AND exercising regularly. Sure, eating the right things to improve your metabolism has a lot to do with weight loss, but even if I weighed 100 lbs, I’d still be unhappy if my arms and legs were flabby. Going to the gym has been a crucial part in getting my body to look the way I’d like it to, which is more important than some number on a scale.

    • Rose- I kept gong back to this point during the article. Regardless of weight loss doesn’t regular strength training boost our confidence so much so that it negates almost everything else in this world of negativity? I know every client that I have worked with 3x week versus 2x week and they both follow the same nutrition plan, far and away those who train 3x weekly not only look better but feel better because of it! Feel free to blog with me http://www.matthewgagliano.blogspot.com

  3. Wow…That was the biggest piece of junk I have ever read. I will not be reading TIME anytime soon.
    Completely biased and based on poor research.

  4. Cloud did not ignore the positive sides of active exercise. Actually, in his story he listed all kinds of benefits you can get after exercise. What he pointed out is that our bad habbits of eating more junk food for a post-exercise reward makes us heavier.

    Don’t get wrong idea.

    • He also stressed that exercise can make you gain more weight. It’s a poor argument. Even you aren’t supporting Cloud– you just show how silly the article is– It’s the post-exercise junk food reward that makes us heavier– Cloud states exercise makes us heavier. Exercise will make you heavier if you gain lean muscle, yes. However, it’s not exercise’s fault if you can’t seem to lose any weight if you keep stuffing your face with junk food. Hence I stand my ground in refuting Cloud’s “Myth about exercise.”

    • I call B.S.

      Cloud acknowledged some positives of exercise, but straight from the cover: “it won’t make you lose weight.” and that’s plainly and simply untrue. It’s one of the finest examples of sensationalist babble I’ve seen in a long time.

      By Cloud’s own piss-poor attempt at logic, it shouldn’t even be what you eat that matters, as diets typically incite longings for nutritionally horrendous foods, perhaps with greater ardor than intense exercise.

      Now I close, not because I’ve vented sufficiently, but because I could never fully explain how offensively stupid this article is.

  5. Thank you so much for refuting this joke of an article. I have seen amazing results working with my personal trainer over the last few months. Not only have I made healthier eating choices, but have really busted my butt in exercising and have actually dropped 20 pounds AND have gone from a size 10 to a size 4. Sure you may gain weight while exercising, but you are gaining lean muscle mass not fat. But you are absolutly right- the focus should be on the junk food and not the exercise. Thank you again!

  6. Very well articulated. This type of article is over-the-top sensationalism intended solely to be controversial and thus sell magazines. The problem is that it is full of faulty science and, in some cases, downright wrong information. Worse, it sends the absolutely wrong message to the general public. I’ve posted a research-based response on my blog, http://www.workout911.com. Spread the word…

    Thanks,

    Brad

  7. I have been treating overweight people for 20 years, and i agree totally with John. It’s not exercise, its the food. Personal stories about slimming down with exercise, are just personal stories. The facts are that exercise does increase hunger, and in the face of increase hunger and the relief of guilt, i.e. the reward for working so hard, fat people will reward themselves, even unconsciously. It may not be junk, food it could even be just bigger portions. Exercise is for increasing muscles, cardiovascular & mental health but for the average fat person, it is of little help as most long term studies have shown. It’s hard to accept
    If fat people could eat “moderately” or “healthy” or
    avoid “junk food” they would not be fat in the1st place, Wake up skinny people, you are skinny because you were born that way, it’s not what you eat, it is
    simply what you do NOT EAT.

    • Genetics have a lot to do with everything– however, on an evolutionary stand point– people are not programmed to be born fat– imagine it this way– in the past when people first walked the face of the Earth, if people are fat– it makes them easier to be hunted down by predator animals. But that’s not the point in refuting your argument. It’s not that fat people are born to be fat– they just don’t have the willpower to stop eating that second bowl of ice cream or that fifth burger. If you and John Cloud are right, then fat people should just stop eating to lose their weight. Starve themselves in a sense– it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that will destroy your metabolism and the moment you start eating full meals again you’ll pack on the pounds.

      Don’t blame exercise, blame poor will power, poor diet choices, and sedentary lifestyles. Being a doctor, you should know– if you don’t use it, you lose it. If you don’t move, your muscles become atrophied. Exercise improves metabolism and shrink fat cells. In the end, if you want to lose weight, like if you’re 300 pounds, you should exercise and eat well. Don’t discount people’s personal stories just because you believe people should starve themselves.

    • Dear Dr. Lipman,
      I gather that “personal stories” don’t count as far as you are concerned but we (of the personal story tellers) have to be *somewhere* on the bell curve, yes?
      I was a skinny kid and then became pudge girl in college and for a few years thereafter. I took up jogging, then running, then competitive running and weight lifting.
      I dropped the extra pounds and never picked it back up. I am 47 and still a size 4. I still compete and love it. I work out 5 times a week 2-3 hours per workout. I eat lots of everything, not just junk. I average 35 miles a week, but am adding more miles for a 40k relay comingup in Oct. So what, I don’t count? Blogga please!

    • “If fat people could eat “moderately” or “healthy” or
      avoid “junk food” they would not be fat in the 1st place, Wake up skinny people, you are skinny because you were born that way, ”

      Dear Dr. Lipman,

      We have a newly appointed chief of the CDC who also believes that personal responsibility should not be part of the obesity solution but proposes taxes on soft drinks and fast food instead. But, if you ever have watched The Biggest Loser TV program, you will see that every single contestant, whether they succeed or not, eventually acknowledges that it is TOTALLY their own personal responsibility that determines their fate…not genetics, not our “toxic environment”, not advertising, not fast food restaurants and not Coca Cola. Sure genetics is an important component, but it can be overcome. As as a physician, would you tell the obese parents of an obese 8 year old that “your child is a bit overweight” and blame it on genetics, or would you say “your child is obese, in danger of severe future health problems and it’s your fault because you provide all his nutrition. You must take action immediately or your child will become a Type II diabetic, have increased morbity from cardiovascular disease and likely to be on dialysis before he is age 50”? Then refer them to nutritional counselling and psycological counselling so they can replace their “food rewards” with something less damaging.

      There is a new “revolution” in fat loss that works and saves lives. This isn’t being taught in medical schools or at your CE seminars. It combines nutritional changes with exercise and doesn’t work if either component is left out. It works for everyone, even in the most recalcitrant cases, but only if the individual will take responsibility.

    • The problem is that it’s been known for years that exercise AND a sensible, healthy diet will contribute to weight loss. I don’t need to be a medical professional to know that — moreover, I’ve never heard anyone make the argument that you can eat anything you want and exercise and you will lose weight (which is what Time’s John Cloud is arguing).

      That’s what makes the article so ridiculous — the reporter is inventing an argument where one doesn’t need to be invented. Not only that, he clearly has implied that exercise not only may not be beneficial but actually can be harmful.

  8. Excellent rebuttal! I’m glad I’m not the only one getting the word out about this absurd Time Magazine article. It’s hard to fight upstream against the hype. I can’t believe he even tried to call out the ACSM specifically. They wrote a press release rebuttal of their own that I have cited on my own blog post.

    It’s very unfortunate that the author, John Cloud, didn’t use his platform to simply acknowledge that ‘working out makes you hungry’ as another reminder to keep an eye on your caloric intake WHILE maintaining a workout regime – rather than encouraging people to drop exercise from their weight loss plan.

    http://www.kastawayblog.com

    EricT

  9. It’s this exact kind of drivel in magazines that makes you not want to ream them. John Cloud ought to be ashamed of himself for writing such nonsense. And Time Magazine ought to be ashamed for publishing it. As a personal trainer, I work with overweight and deconditioned clients in developing not only proper exercise habits but eating habits as well. Weight loss comes down to one simple equation calories in = calories out. If a person is hungry after exercising, reach for the healthy alternatives, make smart choices and trust me a burger and fries, or ice cream is not a smart choice. It’s common sense, pure and simple. Weight loss and weight management call for discipline and common sense and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

    • There is nothing “simple” about the calories in vs out equation because both sides of it are impossible to calculate with any certainty in the real world.

      Caloric intake is difficult to gauge accurately even when tracking + weighing all meals, which the vast majority of people will be highly reluctant to do in the first place.

      Calories out is even harder to determine since you can’t put a person inside a calorimeter. You are forced to rely on generalized metabolic equations which are imprecise because metabolic rate varies from person to person.

      There are numerous unnamed variables involved in the above equation. The article is fundamentally accurate in that it stresses the importance of diet over exercise in losing weight. All physique athletes (bodybuilders and fitness models) can attest to the extreme importance of dietary modification in body recomposition.

  10. This is a great response to a very irresponsible article. How many parents may have read Cloud’s article and now feel they should stop finding ways to get their kids outside to play and be active. As I wrote on my own blog @ scottlancasteronsports.com, the issue is that many people have no idea how to workout in order to lose weight. Many get bored and quit. It’s time, especially for our kids to create innovative ways to get kids to enjoy fitness and become active again. Cloud would have been much more on point to write about that rather than disrespect the entire fitness and physical education industry.

  11. I re-read the Time article. It says clearly that “People who regularly exercise are at significantly lower risk for all manner of diseases — those of the heart in particular. They less often develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses.”

    However, it also clearly says that exercise will make you hungrier. Surely that is not in debate?

    So, if you go to the gym and burn 500 calories, you will feel hungry until you make up the caloric deficit. Your choice is to remain hungry, or to make up the deficit by eating.

    So, if I exercise and don’t lose weight, it must be because I am unwilling to live with the constant hunger that those morally superior beings are able to sustain.

    • Cloud sprinkles the positives about exercise in the middle of the article, after convincing people exercise causes people to “pack on pounds,” and that it makes them “fatter than fitter.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell us that working out, sweating, and burning calories with exercise will make us hungry. Immediately, after exercising, you lose weight– water weight from sweat. You want to quell the hunger. Those who choose to eat junk food– sugary foods, high caloric foods– will undoubtedly gain back all the calories and more, plus saturated fats and cholesterol. But that doesn’t mean it’s exercise’s fault you’re “gaining back the calories/weight.” It’s your own lack of willpower to eat healthier foods– like fruits, lean chicken, vegetables– instead of chocolate muffins, ice cream, french fries, oily burgers, etc… This has nothing to do with starving yourself. You should eat after you exercise, but don’t overeat junk. Don’t blame exercise. Blame fatty junk and overeating and your own lack of willpower. With Cloud’s article, it seems like he’s trying to tell people to skip exercise. Remain sedentary. Because if you remain sedentary, you won’t overeat or eat junkfood.

      BULL.

      • I would like to say that when I was obese, I didn’t crave sweets and junk food any less because I didn’t exercise so much. Now that I exercise a lot, I don’t skip ALL sweets, but I do skip quite a few desserts that I would have eaten when I was less active.

  12. If you need to replace those 500 extra calories you burned, and you’re eating lean chicken, you’re just going to have to eat more of it.

    I’ve heard innumerable times that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, no matter where it comes from. What difference does it make where the calories come from?

    • A calorie is not always just a calorie. It DOES matter where it comes from. Just compare some nutrition facts sometime: How many of the calories come from fat? Also, consuming calories from a greasy burger as opposed to lean chicken will make a huge difference. And the argument really goes beyond calories here…

    • Cloud’s argument isn’t about merely replacing the calories. He is saying that after you exercise, you get hungry and you over eat. If you burn 500 calories from exercise, that already proves one thing– exercise works. It can make you “lose weight”. If you eat exactly 500 calories, then you aren’t going to gain back any “weight.” If you overeat and can’t control yourself, you will of course gain back even more calories than the calories you burned. Calories are the same, yes– it just means a unit of energy (heat energy) and our bodies need calories to function. But when you compensate after exercising with junk food– you are not just taking in calories, you’re taking in fats, sugars, cholesterol, preservatives, etc… And John’s argument, you must remember, is that you overeat after exercising. He blames exercise when it’s overeating and junk food that’s at fault here.

    • Aren’t we past the idea of “a calorie is a calorie”? Yes, in terms of a unit of energy it is just a calorie. But you’re body does different thing with different “calories”. Nutrition-wise you must look beyond that notion. That was another of my grips with the article. It acknowledged and then promptly downplayed the idea of differences in what types of foods you eat. A hundred calories of refined white sugar are not treated the same as 100 calories of whole grains by your body. To say so is to believe that the world is flat. We’ve moved beyond that elementary notion.

  13. My supervisor at work exercises like mad at least 6 days a week, eats like a horse and thinks she should lose weight because of the exercise. She hasn’t lost a pound since I’ve known her, about 5 years, and has no clue why that is. It is true, exercise won’t result in weight loss unless you eat sensibly.

  14. Nummyz says,

    “you are not just taking in calories, you’re taking in fats, sugars, cholesterol, preservatives,”

    Food doesn’t contain calories as an independent component. Calories come from either fats, proteins, or carbohydrates. You mentioned fats, and sugars which are carbohydrates. The only other place calories can come from is protein.

    And, I really don’t think that cholesterol and preservatives have anything to do with overeating after exercise.

    I’m done now. Goodbye.

    • It has everything to do with the quality of food you’re eating and your body’s ability to process it. Eating fruit and drinking water is not nearly as much of an issue as, say, eating a slice of pizza and drink a soda.

      It doesn’t take a nutritionist or medical expert to tell you that the former choice is much healthier than the latter. It’s not that you’re hungry after a workout, it’s what you’re putting into your body afterwards. I’m not sure why you’re having problems understanding that.

  15. GREAT rebuttal!!! Can’t believe TIME actually let this pass as a ‘solid’ article!

    Calories in-calories out its a matter of balance.

    To control eating for weight loss = portion control! No ‘rocket science’ there.

  16. Pingback: The Time Magazine Article. Does Exercise Really Help You Lose Weight or Not? | EUGENIZATION.

  17. John Cloud is quite correct – you cannot exercise yourself to sveltness.

    This rebuttal is non-scientific and just knee jerk.

    Cloud states that exercise IS beneficial just not for fat loss and research proves him right.

    For all of you out there who seek to lose fat, exercise for health but eat a low carb diet for fat loss.

    Do this and in a month you won’t recognize yourself.

    • The problem with John Cloud’s article is he is only looking at weight as a correlation to “fat or fit.” Moreover, his story misrepresents exercise in several instances as being non-beneficial to even detrimental and his conclusion is something people have known for years.

    • Dude, if you don’t exercise and burn the energy it becomes a moot point — you’re storing the food and you’re going to gain weight. It’s not an either/or situation, it’s BOTH exercise and a proper diet. Sometimes people want to be the smartest person in the room and don’t realize how silly they look.

    • The “research” about exercise and fat loss mostly is where persons only exercise from 1-3 hours a week, an amount that is not sufficient to lose weight. 3 hours might make a difference if the person had some dietary restraint. There is plenty of evidence that persons who exercise more seriously lose weight, as long as there is some dietary restraint. I tried Cloud’s method of mostly dieting for 20 years- I was overweight and obese almost the entire twenty years. Once I started to REALLY exercise FAR more than 1-3 hours a week without starving nor stuffing myself, I got well into the ideal weight range and now am at the lowest weight I have been for thirty years. I also do not gain weight nearly as easily as I did before I exercised as much as I do now. Regular exercise enables me to really gorge sometimes, such as during the holiday season without gaining any weight. When I used Cloud’s diet alone approach, I would usually gain 20 pounds during the holiday season. Granted, the vast majority of persons cannot lose weight by exercising if they consume 9000 calories a day. However, without any exercise, most persons will have to go on very low calorie diets which can put that person into starvation mode. Any weight lost will be very easily regained, since following Cloud’s method is guaranteed to lower the person’s metabolism. A person can lose weight without going on a starvation diet if they exercise a lot. I lost weight on calories up to 3000. I now maintain my 160 weight at 6 foot even on 3500 calories a day. Without exercise, I would not have been able to lose weight going over 2000 and this can send me into starvation mode and create nutritional deficiencies- therefore creating more genuine hunger than exercising without crash dieting would. You are completely mistaken that the research shows that exercise does not help with weight loss. Even the research where the persons are doing modest exercise does show modest results for exercise. Studies comparing persons who burn as many calories by exercise (but do not increase or decrease their caloric intake) as dieters who cut calories show equal weight loss. The persons who exercised their weight down have better health results as well.

  18. Pingback: Excercise, Health and Stress | The Inner Game of Stress

  19. From the AHA/ ACSM paper titled: Physical Activity and Public Health. Updated Recommendation for Adults From the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association (page 7):

    “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.”

  20. The TIME article is cluttered with errors and misrepresentations of data. I have been reviewing the medical research on lifestyle and health in the Fitness Rocks podcast (www.fitnessrocks.org) for the past three years. I have interviewed researchers from around the country. I have never seen data that indicate the number of people who exercise is increasing – it is declining.

    I am preparing a podcast rebuttal to the TIME article that will include an interview with Dr. Timothy Church who is featured in the TIME article and Dr. Mark Pereira from the University of Minnesota.

    John Cloud, the author of the TIME article, quoted some statistics from the Minnesota Heart Survey and then went on to use the statistics in an incredibly convoluted demonstration of twisted logic trying to prove that the more we exercise the more weight we gain. Check out this concluding sentence from a scientific paper about the Minnesota Heart Survey published online at MEDSCAPE:

    “Conclusions: Although energy expenditure was lower than national recommendations, greater physical activity was associated with lower body mass. Public health strategies are needed to facilitate participation in physical activity, especially for women, elderly, and less educated individuals.”

    A link to this entire article is: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/546339

    Mr. Cloud, and TIME, should review scientific data more carefully before publishing their own conclusions that are detrimental to public health.

    An audio interview I did with Dr. Church in November 2007 about his research on exercise is available in Fitness Rocks podcast 073 either at iTunes or at http://www.fitnessrocks.org. It is free in both locations.

    Why do discussions about anything in this country always have to take place between extremes? It is not diet versus exercise for weight loss, it is diet AND exercise. I am using the word “diet” as a general reference to how and what we select to eat, not an endorsement of any particular fad diet.

    The American College of Sports Medicine has stated very clearly that “Exercise is Real Medicine.”

    Monte Ladner, M.D.
    http://www.fitnessrocks.org

  21. This article is garbage. The author should just go write for Playboy, as it requires no brain cells.

    WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT MAGIC, PEOPLE. Gargage in, garbage out.

    Exercise will increase your appetite. However, if you CHOOSE to eat a blueberry bar post-exercise – instead of a healthy, well-balanced meal consisting of lean protein, WHOLE WHEAT grains, and vegetables – then you are making BAD FOOD CHOICES.

    It’s not rocket science. Exercise. Eat CLEAN. Make it a lifestyle. Your body WILL be leaner, stonger, and healthier. And you’ll feel better.

    DUH. WTF??!!

  22. This article is garbage. The author should just go write for Playboy, as it requires no brain cells.

    WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT MAGIC, PEOPLE. Gargage in, garbage out.

    Exercise will increase your appetite. However, if you CHOOSE to eat a blueberry bar post-exercise – instead of a healthy, well-balanced meal consisting of lean protein, WHOLE WHEAT grains, and vegetables – then you are making BAD FOOD CHOICES.

    It’s not rocket science. Exercise. Eat CLEAN. Make it a lifestyle. Your body WILL be leaner, stronger, and healthier. And you’ll feel better.

    DUH. WTF??!!

  23. This article is garbage. The author should just go write for Playboy, as it requires no brain cells.

    WEIGHT LOSS IS NOT MAGIC, PEOPLE. Garbage in, garbage out.

    Exercise will increase your appetite. However, if you CHOOSE to eat a blueberry bar post-exercise – instead of a healthy, well-balanced meal consisting of lean protein, WHOLE WHEAT grains, and vegetables – then you are making BAD FOOD CHOICES.

    It’s not rocket science. Exercise. Eat CLEAN. Make it a lifestyle. Your body WILL be leaner, stronger, and healthier. And you’ll feel better.

    DUH. WTF??!!

  24. I’m a living example of how it works. I had been eating so much chocolate and other best stuff on the las 12 monhts, so I gained about 20 pounds. So I did some research on the internet and listed a dozen of ideas to height loss. Tomorrow it will be completing 3 weeks on my new habits and I can VIEW and FEEL some differences on my body. That’s what i’m doing: 6 meals per day, this way: bran cereal with lean milk and fruits on breakfast, one fruit (pear or banana) on mid-morning, salad, vegetables, tuna fish and whole great bread for lunch, one fruit on mid-afternoon, one nut and one brazil nut and 10g of dark chocolate (70% cocoa), for dinner any think healthy, like salad or a diet shake. Also I use the stairs over the elevator at office. I work at 7th floor, but I go upstairs to the 12th floor and than I go back using the elevator. My legs have some more muscle and my belly is thinner. I don’t know how much punds, I don’t do it to avoid anxietiy. Just 3 weeks now, and I want to keep going for more 4 to 5 months at least.

  25. There’s a TRUE theory that says that if you can stick to a new habit during 3 weeks (21 days) you will be able to keep it long-term in a much more easy way. So my rule to all my new habits is: stick to it during 21 days, don’t matter how much it costs, as far it is good to me. And I can say: IT WORKS! For good and for bad. If you keep 21 days eating hamburger with milk shake you have a VERY BIG chance to keep going until you are really big and fat. So, JUST FIND YOUR WAY WO MAKE YOUR NEW HABITS. It may “hurt” during the few 5 to 10 days, but give yourself the chance to a change for lifetime and stick to the 21 days and just see magic happening.

  26. Time has really gone downhill. Just because this guy can’t lose his belly fat doesn’t mean he should discount exercise for all who really need it. If he was serious he should of stopped his exercise routine for 3 months and seen how much weight he would of gained.

  27. Thank goodness I found this rebuttal. It has managed to somewhat calm the rage that was growing within as I read John Cloud’s article. It has given me comfort that there are still some sensible people out there. I have lost almost 100 pounds due to exercise AND dietary changes. I was able to do this because I educated myself about food and exercise and the way my body works. Clearly Mr. Cloud, the editors of TIME and the various “experts” cited in this article did not take such time to become educated about the topic at hand. People such as these usually enjoy hearing themselves expound at great lengths on any and every topic and when you’re only listening to yourself, it becomes difficult to hear, much less, absorb what anyone else might have to say. These days it also seems popular to cater to the masses and the masses these days are quite overweight. Many of them find this sort of “information” very palatable and gobble it up with ease. I get frequent citations and e-mails forwards from many of my obese associates containing just this sort of misguided and misleading information. They use it to embolden themselves in their lifestyle choices and legitimize their unhealthful ways. I find myself so saddened and enraged by their delusions and refusal to take any responsibility for their actions. Which is what it comes down to…SELF-RESPONSIBILITY. John Cloud is just letting overweight people off the hook once again. His article undermines exercise. Which is beneficial to one’s overall health regardless of weight lost. It offers no useful information or alternative to exercise. If eating right is the answer and exercise is useless in the quest for weight loss, then a good reporter should have delved deeper into the world of good nutrition instead of shrugging his shoulders at the notion of working out as though nothing more could be said. Ugh, I can’t go on. I’ve expended so many calories in my typing flurry that I’ve worked up an appetite. Better go make a batch of chocolate chip cookies and down the lot. I haven’t any choice in the matter. Right?

  28. Among other things, the story clearly shows John Cloud’s problem: He defines things in such a narrow-minded fashion. He defines “exercise” almost solely in the context of going to a gym or fitness center. Moreover, his description of his exercise program is clearly something he does not enjoy nor does it sound he varies anything.

    I’m sorry, but exercise is defined as physical activity and there are numerous activities people can do — basketball, bicycling, martial arts, swimming, etc. — regularly. The whole point of exercise is getting off your butt and doing something regularly as a physical activity. Weight training/cardio classes is but one of the many activities people can do. Even leisurely activities such as working in the yard or chopping up some wood can be beneficial.

    If you don’t like doing weight training/cardio programs on machines, fine — but stop acting like that’s the only form of exercise in existence.

    He also seems to have a terrible application of “getting thin” in the context of physical fitness. Most people I hear say they want to get thin is in the context of maintaining their size or losing weight (because you burn up energy during exercise); they’re not saying it in the context of “I want to look like Kate Moss.” It’s almost sad when you have to explain things like this to adults, because they have such poor comprehension skills.

    He also seems to associate “gaining weight” with “getting fatter.” That’s not necessarily the case, particularly if you’re transforming your body composition with more muscle definition. A 200-lb. man with muscle definition is a lot different looking than a 180-lb. man whose body is mostly fat.

    Cloud’s ignorance of words seem to be the core root of his problem. That’s in addition to taking information out of context, making general statements and even committing the occasional factual error.

  29. Quit being a whiner. All of you most likely have big guts and, like the typical American, don’t care. So why do you care about Cloud saying that, in many cases, exercise can be associated with weight gain. Why do you think we hear the phrase “I just can’t lose weight” so much? If you have the discipline to work out five days a week, then you sure as hell should have the discipline to not eat shitty food.

  30. I wouldn’t necessarily denounce TIME Magazine. While this was a hugely irresponsible article for them to publish, on many different levels, they are still a solid publication.

    Stick to the point: That this article is bad journalism, bad advice, and just an overall weak attempt at a cover story. Yes it’s catchy, but it’s not even well researched or balanced.

    For example, let’s break down this excerpt:

    >> Still, as one major study — the Minnesota Heart Survey — found, more of us at least say we exercise regularly. The survey ran from 1980, when only 47% of respondents said they engaged in regular exercise, to 2000, when the figure had grown to 57%.

    And yet obesity figures have risen dramatically in the same period: a third of Americans are obese, and another third count as overweight by the Federal Government’s definition. Yes, it’s entirely possible that those of us who regularly go to the gym would weigh even more if we exercised less. <<

    Okay. basically Mr. Cloud just made a correlation between obesity increasing and a 10 % increase in people saying they exercise regularly. Just because two studies were done in the same time period does not mean they have anything to do with each other. And then he he says that it's entirely possible that if we didn't go to the gym, we would weigh less.

    What? Why? Because more people said they go to the gym and obesity has risen? What about the hundreds of other factors that cause obesity, including terrible diets which Mr. Cloud alludes to?

    I think John Cloud is a great writer. He has written stories in the past that were thoroughly researched, well presented, and informative. This isn't one of them. Please make this type of journalism the exception.

    Jacob K Repko

    Senior Journalism student @ The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

  31. John Cloud is so right. There is a physiological connection between exercise and how we eat. Whether subtle or overt, it seems inescapable. I was hoping Cloud would offer an escape route, a way to break, or even reverse, that connection but I’m not sure I found one in his article. So I’d like to offer one possibility that Cloud may be want to share with others.

    I have maintained pretty much the same weight and shape I had when I graduated as a high school athlete 50 years ago. I think it might be a function of the nature of the exercise I do and how that motivates my eating habits. I refuse to take the time to drive back and forth to a gym, and I’m too cheap to pay for a membership anyway. So I roll out of bed and do push ups, pull ups, chin ups, walk on my hands … exercise that is very weight dependent. If I gain a few pounds I drop from 12 to 10 pull ups and cannot balance on my hands nearly as well. I don’t have to count calories. My kind of exercise provides daily feedback clearly announcing the consequence of what I eat. I know that bred and oil before a meals, like desert after, will show up in my military push up count in pretty short order.

    Hand stand push ups may not be the right metric for everyone to start with. But I’m pretty sure there are a number of weight dependent exercises like “push ups with knees on floor” that will work for most anyone. Try it. I think you will find that it works.

  32. Good lord. The science of being fit is so well understood now. If you control the inputs (exercise, type and quantity of food), you will lose or gain weight. The trick is to make being healthy a lifelong goal, because diets only work short term, and are only good until you’ve impressed that girl/guy, then you get burned as you put the pounds back on. Lifelong consistency! You want to look great and feel great when you’re 50, 60, or beyond. YES: Books about science of exercise and healthy eating, long term strategy, habits, consistency. NO: Short term thinking, diet books, fads.

  33. I don’t get the rebuttal- are you suggesting keeping people misinformed about the the effect of exercise on weight loss so that they exercise more? That’s just wrong- people need to lose weight first and foremost, and they need to know the reality about how to do it. If you are going to attack the article, please respect the science and show some sources.

    The Time article is absolutely correct, and well supported by science. The rebuttal and responses are mostly pseudo-science and knee-jerk reactions. One lady wrote she lost 20 pounds after months at the gym. So what? You would have lost the same weight eating well. However, you have the fitness benefit, so good for you.

    As for the “personal responsibility” arguments. I don’t get that. Something is obviously wrong in our society- obesity is 35%- and it has nothing to do with gyms and televisions (again, the science). Your suggestion is to ignore the fact and damage the futures of the millions of obese kids? Damage our economy due to the millions of obese adults? I don’t get that. People are sick and dying, and something needs to be done.

    Most responses are based on wrong facts- people aren’t fatter because of less activity. It’s because of food. This is also supported by recent studies. It’s also been studied in children.

    Some of the most sedentary countries are the slimmest- Korea, Taiwan and Japan come to mind.

    The exercise/gym phenomena has exploded in as people have gotten fatter. It distracts them from healthy eating.

    The real tragedy is rebuttals like this one where people are convinced they won’t lose weight without exercise, leaving them overweight.

    I think the Time article does a great service- it’s vitally important for people to think about weight loss and fitness as two separate thing.

    As for the rebuttal, there are no scientific references. Just hand-waving, misdirection and anecdotes. For instance, drawing parallels between our hunter-gather ancestors and our obese adult society. Wrong parallel. You need to compare our 1960s and 70s ancestors, and our peers in France and Korea and other countries. There physical activity is similar to us, but there weight isn’t.

    And if we are so lazy, why are we eating on average 300 cal a day more then in the 1970s? Shouldn’t we be eating the same or less?

    As for the argument that articles like this discourage exercise, I don’t see that. And what are you suggesting? Leaving people ignorant?

    And if you disagree with the science (exercise doesn’t lead to weight loss for most people), then where is the science? Your references?

    Gyms only work with trainers and excessive hours- far more then needed for health. That lost time takes away from family, work, and other activities. It’s also very expensive.

    Without the trainers keeping people in check, it falls apart- just search for “biggest loser weight gain” and read about all the “winners” who gained their weight back. And you know there planned first step of losing it again? Getting back to the gym. And do you know what they do while waiting for that day? Nothing.

    The whole gym culture is based on the lie that we are far more inactive then we used to. That’s not true, and rebuttals like this are wholly irresponsible if they refuse to respect science and informing people of what it says. That said, we need more physical activity for better health, in addition to losing weight. But there is no reason to perpetuate misinformation- this just sets most people up for failure on both. They don’t lose weight, and give up on the gym. Also, with more reasonable physical activity levels, people are more likely to get a sustainable program- some sports, some home exercise, and maybe some gym time.

    • John Cloud does make the argument that consuming more calories lead to weight gain– he also directly states that exercise leads to weight gain, instead of making a correlation– which even in that case makes no sense. He’s trying to say that exercise will never help you lose any weight, and that it makes you gain more weight. My rebuttal supports exercise to promote health, along with “weight loss” with healthy eating. His article simply states, the more calories consumed, the more weight you gain. Why make it seem like exercise is making you gain weight? You state it’s all anecdotes I write– where are your “scientific facts?” Why are Americans so obese? They have an unlimited access to food. The portions are tremendous. And when they try to lose weight at a gym, they give up after not seeing immediate results. They work out and then consume burgers, desserts, junk food– extra calories. It’s all this junk that made them fat. If they exercise and eat well, they would not gain weight. If they exercise and still eat like a pig, of course weight will be gained, but that’s not exercise’s fault, like what John Cloud eludes to.

    • Your response almost seems valid, yet you also fail to provide any proof other than those cited in Clouds article. Of course food choices are at the base of all weight loss/gains. Going back just a few generations, what did our parents/grandparents eat? A lot more fruits and vegetables, foods that hadn’t been processed. When meals were actually prepared with ingredients as opposed to something we just throw in the microwave or pick up at the drive thru window. But doesn’t actually moving our bodies(exercise play a role in or dietary requirements). Are you going to deny that athletes require a higher amount of nutrients than a sedentary person such as yourself? The more energy we expend, the more we require. After exercise, the fatigued muscles and organs demand nutrients/vitamins! However, the food choices we are accustomed to do not provide sufficient nutrients/vitamins to accomplish this thus we must eat more and in the end consuming more calories.

  34. “Fact– exercise will make you lose weight, instantly. You sweat– you lose weight”
    Classic!

    I’ve performed years of exercise science research at Baylor and the University of Oklahoma and from what we’ve found it does cause weight loss, albeit this was in thousands of humans (not animals) which wasn’t evidence that Cloud wanted to present. Hence, he didn’t cite our studies. I’m not too offended. Wouldn’t want my name on any part of Cloud’s article.

    Cloud also exercises 4 hours per week, or 2% of his week. If you exclude warming up, stretching, etc. this is probably 1.5% of his week spent exercising. I’m guessing the rest of his time is spent typing garbage, eating garbage, and sleeping. And, don’t blame genetics. Gene interaction studies are too inconclusive to identify a genetic cause to obesity, and most of the suspect genes are dysfunctional in sedentary, not active, animals.

    Has TIME magazine partnered with the National Enquirer? That would explain this article

  35. Pingback: GRACE UNCENSORED » Blog Archive » continued busy-ness

  36. The article said that exercise convert fat to muscle.
    WRONG.

    It said that researchers had only recently discovered brown fat in human beings.

    Then why brown fat was it mentioned in Covert Bailey’s “Fit or Fat” in the 1990s?

    Lousy article.

  37. Working out makes you hungry. When people work out they tend to overeat and/or make poor food choices. This sabotages the workout and may actually cause them to gain weight. I know a boat load of people who have trained for marathons and gained weight during the process.

    I used to be a cardio-head, a head-case about cardio. I used to do cardio for one hour a day, 7 days a week at high intensity. I also did 3 days of strength training. After burning out on this routine, I cut back my workouts to 3 times a week with lower cardio intensity and light weight training. I am 10 lbs lighter than I was back in my cardio-head days. After reducing my workout frequency and intensity, I did not have those burning desire to eat anything that was placed in front of me when I got home from the gym or from work. Best of all I don’t feel bad if I miss a workout. I have less injuries and actually have more energy to do other things.

    Before you knock the author, you should try it. I lived it and this dude is spot on.

    • As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I work out daily. I’m not a fatso. I also know a boatload of people who workout and look great.

      Asides from that, I’ve addressed the everything you’ve mentioned. Working out makes you hungry, but being a glutton and eating junkfood post workout isn’t the workout’s fault, it’s the person’s own fault. Instead of drinking soda to quench thirst, drink plain water. That would not lead to “weight gain” post workout. Instead of munching on chips, cookies, and other carby choices, the person could munch on veggies, eggs, or plain chicken breasts. A person who makes poor food choices probably makes poor food choices out of habit, not just post workout. Before even giving exercise a chance, the person will go back to leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating junk.

      People who gain weight after training for marathons gain muscle weight. Muscle weighs more than fat. A muscular and fit man who is six foot tall may weight more than a six foot tall fat man. It’s all elementary. Muscle tissue is denser and heavier than fat tissue.

      And from what you’re saying, you’re still exercising. You are ten pounds lighter possibly due to decreased muscle mass. The misconception most people have is that weight less equates to being “less fat” or healthier. Working out in moderation or even with increased intensity, when done appropriately, leads to increased health. Making poor food choices is the true culprit. John Cloud places exercise in a negative light. Hey, you don’t have to take my world for it.

      Read this: http://www.examiner.com/diets-and-exercise-in-boston/rebuttal-to-the-time-magazine-article-why-exercise-won-t-make-you-thin-part-1-of-5

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