Simply lose weight with exercise? The study dispels the common myth

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From: Fairy Halberstadt

Pull apart

Analyzing the data, Pontzer found that marathon runners’ caloric needs first increase, but then decrease and adjust. (Iconic photo) © Thomas Bartilla/Imago Images

There are many ways to lose weight: dieting, exercising or fasting. But sport alone does not provide what many think.

Frankfurt – Fasting, Low Carb, High Carb, Low Fat: Today there are numerous recommendations on how to lose weight more effectively. The possibility of boosting fat burning with the help of certain foods is also mentioned over and over again. Regardless of the diet, it is generally accepted that sports lose weight. However, according to one researcher, this assumption is a myth.

In his book Burn: New Research Blows the Lid Off – How We Really Burn Calories, Lose Weight, and Stay Healthy, anthropologist Herman Pontzer questions that more exercise leads to more calorie expenditure and therefore more loss of weight. According to the results of research by Pontzer, considered an expert on human metabolism, it is not true that people who move a lot need more energy than those who sit all day, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

These findings apparently upset some of his colleagues. For example, exercise physiologist John Thyfault of the University of Kansas Medical Center is concerned that this finding may give dieters bad ideas. Others find his work excellent. So does paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello, who calls his work “revolutionary.”

Sport as the key to losing weight: a study debunks a common myth

A closer look at the results of Pontzer’s research makes it clear what logic his findings are based on: When you exercise, you burn energy. This suggests that the body needs more energy per day. However, according to the metabolism expert, this assumption is wrong. In various studies, Pontzer found that energy in the body is distributed differently.

An example: Pontzer traveled to Tanzania in 2010 to investigate the energy balance of the Hadza people. These people are hunters and gatherers and consequently active, reports Deutschlandfunk. Women run about eight kilometers a day, men about 14. That’s more kilometers than average Americans run a day, adds the SZ. The Hadza people agreed to Pontzer’s request. With the help of dual branded water, she determined CO2 emissions and thus calorie consumption during an activity. The results surprised many colleagues.

Study shows: sport does not lead to weight loss: energy consumption is simply distributed differently

“Individual Hadza sometimes have more or less active days, with some burning ten percent more or less calories than average. In general, however, Hadza men and women burn the same amount of energy per day as men and women in the United States, Europe, Russia, and Japan,” he reported in the online magazine Plos One in 2012.

The result of this investigation was not an isolated case. Loyola University Chicago epidemiologist Amy Luke also found that women farmers in West Africa burn as many calories as women in Chicago. She uses the same method as Pontzer, as SZ writes. However, the results of her investigation remained largely unknown.

From his results, Pontzer deduces that during sports activities the body reduces the supply of energy for other tasks in the body. He says: “Instead of increasing the number of calories burned per day, the Hadza’s physical activity changed the way they burned his calories.”

No myth: sport is good for your health and protects against diabetes and heart disease

Analysis of more data confirms this assumption, as reported by the mirror. In one study, marathon runners were observed jogging 26 miles six times a week for 140 days. Pontzer and his colleagues found that runners’ energy needs at the start of the race were around 6,200 calories.

Over the course of the run, the power requirement dropped significantly. In the end it was 4900 calories. From this, the researchers concluded that the body creates space for training needs and stores them elsewhere.

Studies do not consider that sport has a positive effect on the human body and keeps it healthy. Exercise has an effect on fat distribution and the risk of diabetes and heart disease, according to exercise physiologist Thyfault. Pontzer agrees: “Exercise keeps you from getting sick, but the best way to control your weight is through diet.” (Fee Halberstadt)

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