But I have to admit that many people in the gym really are trying, they just don’t know how to go about achieving their objectives.
Face it, weightlifters (or other strength trainers) are in a different league. Usually except for some fine-tuning, most of us have gone beyond the need to lose weight and are trying to either build our bodies into the finest version we can achieve, or we understand the limits of aerobic exercise when it comes to health, muscle and bone strength and retention, and fighting the ravages of aging.
But with nearly 70% of the people in the U.S. either overweight (body mass index, BMI, ≥ 25) or obese (BMI ≥ 30), the prime objective of most of those in the gym or exercising elsewhere is to lose weight. Specifically, to lose fat.
Those people spend most of their gym time doing cardio, using treadmills, stair-steppers, cycles, and the like.
Aerobic exercise is the least effective thing you can do for fat loss, other than sitting at home on the couch. Looked at in terms of muscle, it could even be worse.
I genuinely feel sorry for fat people trying to lose weight by spending their time in the gym on the cardio machines. It’s a tragedy.
But they don’t know any better. Why? Because mainstream doctors and health advice constantly tell these people that they need to do steady-state aerobic exercise to lose fat.
This advice is tragically wrong.
In the years I’ve been lifting weights, most of the people I’ve seen never even touch a weight. They spend hours and hours in futile exercise and never have any results that I can see to show for it.
The modern incarnation of aerobic exercise – activities such as running, jogging, walking, and those cardio machines – got going with the advocacy of Dr. Kenneth Cooper and his book Aerobics (1968). Cooper’s idea was that low-intensity, steady-state exercise done for relatively long periods of time is the key to good health, especially heart health.
Cooper was not wholly wrong. Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for your health.
But Cooper was wrong about the type of exercise that’s optimal. Aerobics will do little to nothing for building or retaining muscle or strengthening bones, two points to which attention must be paid as we age.
More importantly, aerobics will do nothing or maybe worse for losing weight, unless the weight you want to lose is muscle. For fat loss, the only proven exercise program is resistance training.
The promotion of aerobics bears similarities to the promotion of low-fat eating. Both began at about the same time, and both began just as the obesity epidemic was getting under way.
Both are ineffective at best for fat loss.
And both aerobics and low-fat eating are still the preferred forms of exercise and diet, respectively, that mainstream health sources promote today.
That they are still promoted heavily is the reason for all those people in the gym pursuing ineffective strategies like treadmill walking or other cardio.
In my opinion, the promotion of aerobics and low-fat dieting has gone on far too long, and they are harming people. Both may very well be connected to the initiation and prolongation of the obesity epidemic.
I’ve written extensively about why aerobic exercise and low-fat eating are ineffective for fat loss (see links above). In brief, the idea that one should “burn calories” through exercise doesn’t make much sense, since you can always eat more than you’ve burned, and the retention and, better, the addition of muscle is crucial for fat loss and metabolic health. Low-fat eating doesn’t work because it leaves people hungry, and hunger always wins in the end. Low-carbohydrate eating has been shown to be much more effective for fat loss, in part because hunger is subdued.
How do you lose fat? It’s easy.
That’s about it. People get fat mainly through the constant eating of crap food, and they then compound this error by doing aerobic exercise.
Those poor people doing cardio in the gym: what do they have to show for years of sweat on those machines? What do they have to show for assiduously following mainstream advice? For most of them, absolutely nothing. A sizable fraction have gained fat.
Imagine being a middle-aged man and having man boobs. Very embarrassing, humiliating even. You dedicate yourself to the best diet and exercise program you know of, and stick to it. Nothing happens.
You think there must be something wrong with you. You think maybe you’re not trying hard enough, that you’re weak and have little willpower. Maybe it’s your genes or hormones that are keeping you fat (you think).
If this man had just cut the junk out of his diet, started lifting weights, and threw in occasional bouts of intermittent fasting, he’d be golden. No more man boobs.
At this point, aerobics and low-fat eating should be relegated to the ash heap of history.
Those who promote them are lying. They know, or should know, better.
We’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic, which they at least partly caused, and they double down.
Unfortunately for those people in the gym doing cardio to lose weight – it’s next to impossible to convince them that what they’re doing is all wrong. Such is the power of indoctrination.
If I pointed them to this article, almost none of them would read it, and fewer would change. So I guess there’s a limit to my sympathy. If you’re not willing to change, then there’s nothing I can do.
Forget cardio and low-fat eating, there’s a better way.
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