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Have the Benefits of Exercise Been Oversold?

By November 7, 2008 - 8:29am
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This article about how the benefits of exercise may be more hype than help was disturbing to me. For years, I've been thinking if I exercise, four, five, sometimes six times a week, I would be healthier in the long run than my non-exercising (and now wise?) friends. Well, not so fast, says the writer of exercise. While exercise may benefit some under certain circumstances (it can lead to weight loss) which can be good for you, it's not the panacea we've been lead to believe. Here's some brief points from the article?

While exercise can boost mood, its health benefits have been oversold.

Moderate exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes in people at risk. Exercise may reduce the risk of heart disease and breast and colon cancers.

Though the evidence is mixed, exercise may also provide benefits for people with osteoporosis.

Physical activity alone will not lead to sustained weight loss or reduce blood pressure or cholesterol.

How do you feel after exercise? Do you believe you should keep exercising if you do? Start exercising if you don't? Other?

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HERWriter Guide

This is a really interesting study!

I'm definitely not a professional in this arena but I will say that since starting a regular exercise routine about 7 months ago, I feel better, my body is firmer and I'm happier.

I don't think many people who exercise believe that activity actually prevents anything (the 'over-selling'), rather it may be an important factor in reducing risks and maintaining a healthy weight, and stronger muscles and bones.

Over-exercising aside (and that's the least of our problems since the vast majority of us under-exercise!), I don't know anyone who feels better without exercise.

While we obviously need to be cognizant of exaggerated commercials and fad exercise machines and routines that tout life-altering changes, regular exercise can only do us good.

November 8, 2008 - 8:10am

One of the things I find interesting about this story, and about other health stories in general, is that it's hard to isolate exactly which behaviors are affecting which health benefits. A person is healthier if they don't smoke, for instance, but are they a sedentary non-smoker or an active non-smoker? Here's a couple of graphs that talk about this:

"Active people are much less likely to smoke; they’re thinner and they eat differently than their sedentary peers. They also tend to be more educated, and education is one of the strongest predictors of good health in general and a longer life. As a result, it is impossible to know with confidence whether exercise prevents heart disease or whether people who are less likely to get heart disease are also more likely to be exercising.

"Scientists have much the same problem evaluating exercise and cancer. The same sort of studies that were done for heart disease find that people who exercised had lower rates of colon and breast cancer. But whether that result is cause or effect is not well established."

I don't think the article means to say that exercise itself is any less good for us than we thought. I think the emphasis is more that no one single thing can be isolated as a cure-all (which we know, but we keep looking for it anyway!) I think a person who exercises will, naturally, seek other healthful ways of living; and that a person who eats well may naturally seek exercise; and then that person will decide that smoking is not good for their body, or that they need to cut down on sugar and white foods, or that they need to drink more water. Maybe we can think of exercise as the trunk of the tree, while acknowledging that other branches are really important to the system as well.

November 7, 2008 - 9:38am
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