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7 Minute Workout to lose weight fast, burn fat and tone your body
Exercise has been shown to be ineffective when it comes to losing weight — dieting is a better route Photograph: A size 18 and a couple of stone heavier than ideal, she tried in vain for years to shed the extra. Every week she headed to the gym, where she pounded the treadmill like a paratrooper, often three times a week. Most days she took the dog for a brisk, hour-long walk. She didn't eat unhealthily — the rest of the family ate exactly the same meals, and did a fraction of the exercise she did. She ought to have been the slimmest of the bunch: From StairMasters to kettlebells, Rosemary Conley to Natalie Cassidy, we understand and expect that getting in shape is going to require serious effort on our part — and the reverse is true, too, that we expect exercise to pay back the hours of boring, sweaty graft with a leaner, lighter body. Since the days of the Green Goddess, we've known that the healthiest way to lose weight is through exercise. It's science, isn't it? Well, science has some bad news for you. More and more research in both the UK and the US is emerging to show that exercise has a negligible impact on weight loss. That tri-weekly commitment to aerobics class? Almost worthless, as far as fitting into your bikini is concerned. The Mayo Clinic , a not-for-profit medical research establishment in the US, reports that, in general, studies "have demonstrated no or modest weight loss with exercise alone" and that "an exercise regimen… is unlikely to result in short-term weight loss beyond what is achieved with dietary change. And it's a scientific discovery that most health professionals are, naturally, keen to downplay. After all, exercise is still good for us. It's just that, in defiance of decades of New Year resolutions, it's unlikely to make us slim. Most of us have a grasp of the rudiments of weight gain and loss: Unfortunately, the maths isn't in our favour. To burn off an extra calories is typically an extra two hours of cycling. And that's about two doughnuts. But Gately sums it up: In what has become a defining experiment at the University of Louisiana, led by Dr Timothy Church, hundreds of overweight women were put on exercise regimes for a six-month period. Some worked out for 72 minutes each week, some for minutes, and some for A fourth group kept to their normal daily routine with no additional exercise. Against all the laws of natural justice, at the end of the study , there was no significant difference in weight loss between those who had exercised — some of them for several days a week — and those who hadn't. Church doesn't record whether he told the women who he'd had training for three and half hours a week, or whether he was wearing protective clothing when he did. Some of the women even gained weight. Church identified the problem and called it "compensation": The post-workout pastry to celebrate a job well done — or even a few pieces of fruit to satisfy their stimulated appetites — undid their good work. In some cases, they were less physically active in their daily life as well. His findings are backed up by a paper on childhood obesity published in by Boston academics Steven Gortmaker and Kendrin Sonneville. In an month study investigating what they call "the energy gap" — the daily imbalance between energy intake and expenditure — the pair showed that when the children in their experiment exercised, they ended up eating more than the calories they had just burned, sometimes 10 or 20 times as many. Until then, the notion that physical activity might help you lose weight was actually rather unfashionable in the scientific community — in the s, a leading specialist had persuasively argued that it was more effective to keep patients on bed rest. Over the course of his career, Mayer's pioneering studies — on rats, babies and schoolgirls — demonstrated that the less active someone was, the more likely they were to be fat. Mayer himself, the son of two eminent physiologists, and a Second World War hero to boot, became one of the world's leading figures in nutrition and most influential voices in the sphere of public health. As an advisor to the White House and to the World Health Organisation, he drew correlations between exercise and fitness that triggered a revolution in thinking on the subject in the 60s and 70s. Each successive postwar generation was enjoying an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and those lifestyles have been accompanied by an apparently inexorable increase in obesity. Three in five UK adults are now officially overweight. And type II diabetes, which used to be a disease that affected you at the end of your life, is now the fastest-rising chronic disorder in paediatric clinics. But have we confused cause and effect? Terry Wilkin, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, argues that we have. The title of his latest research is: Wilkin is nearing the end of an year study on obesity in children, which has been monitoring the health, weight and activity levels of subjects since the age of five. When his team compared the more naturally active children with the less active ones, they were surprised to discover absolutely no difference in their body fat or body mass. That's not to say that exercise is not making the children healthy in other ways, says Wilkin, just that it's having no palpable effect on their overall size and shape. For one thing, Wilkin believes he has discovered another form of "compensation", similar to Timothy Church's discovery that we reward ourselves with food when we exercise. Looking at the question of whether it was possible to change a child's physical activity, Wilkin's team put accelerometers on children at schools with very different PE schedules: But when they got home they did the reverse. Those who had had the activity during the day flopped and those who hadn't perked up, and if you added the in-school and out-of-school together you got the same. From which we concluded that physical activity is controlled by the brain, not by the environment — if you're given a big opportunity to exercise at one time of day you'll compensate at another. In other words, what physical activity you do is not going to be left to the city council to decide. It's going to be controlled, fundamentally, from within. Those who are saying it has no impact are neglecting a huge amount of the literature. I am suspicious of anyone who polarises obesity as one thing over another when there is strong agreement that it has multiple causes. In people who have lost weight and kept weight off, physical activity is almost always involved. And those people who just do diet are more likely to fail, as are those who just do exercise. You need a combination of the two, because we're talking about human beings, not machines. We know that dietary behaviour is quite a negative behaviour — we're having to deny ourselves something. There aren't any diets out there that people enjoy. But people do enjoy being physically active. But it is still much harder to exercise when you're already overweight, and "high energy density" foods are quick to get us there — overeating by just calories a day can lead to a weight increase of 10lb over a year. Does the coalition government — which will launch a White Paper on the subject this autumn — agree? Anne Milton, minister for public health, is not keen to commit to any particular strategy before its publication. Change4Life [the government's current healthy-living initiative] is doing a good job. But we think there's still lots more we can do with it. When it comes to losing weight, it seems there's only one real choice — stop eating so much food. Barry Braun, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts, says that the evidence emerging from his research team shows that moderate exercise such as "low-intensity ambulation" ie walking may help to burn calories "without triggering a caloric compensation effect" — ie without making you reach for a snack the moment you're done. In one experiment, Braun showed that simply standing up instead of sitting used up hundreds more calories a day without increasing appetite hormones in your blood. The bad news Perhaps offering one reason for a multi-billion-pound weight-loss industry aimed almost exclusively at women, research has confirmed that it is more difficult for women to shed the pounds than men, because women's bodies are simply more efficient at storing fat. In one of Braun's experiments, in which overweight men and women were monitored while walking on treadmills, the women's blood levels of insulin decreased while appetite hormones increased; the men's, meanwhile, displayed no such change.
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