In the end… it's the energy balance

In the end, it's the energy balance

Published 6.23.2016
example of why Dr Yoni Freedhoff and Dr Aseem Malhotra, an obesity specialist and a cardiologist, respectively, are 100% off base with their comments about the necessity of exercise. Telling people that exercise is not important is simply a stupid thing to do. Walking works. No need to run, no need to bike for hours, just walk. That's all you need to do. Any movement, all movement works.

The energy balance is complex, and the largest term is for a person's metabolism, which is not easily changed. The two terms that can be changed easily are intake (food and drink) and movement (exercise and moving while living). Walking is the easiest exercise for most able bodied people. It requires no special track or equipment.

In the study discussed at the link, people lowered their odds of being diagnosed with type two diabetes (T2D) if they walked 1.5 hours a week. The article says the walk should be "brisk," but I'm willing to bet that even strolling would help.

This blogger was so close… and yet no, she gets it wrong. At least she admits that people do control what gets put into their pie-hole, but when it comes to calories out, she fails to recognize that much of the movement outside of deliberate bouts of exercise is or can be a choice. No, I'm not talking about fidgeting. I am talking about (as I always do) whether or not you sit or stand while you work or watch TV. I'm talking about whether or not you walk down to the mailbox to pick up the mail or send you kid to do it.

All of that is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and over the course of a day, it does add up. Will it be a larger term than the basal metabolism term? No, it won't. But you can't do anything about your metabolism. It is what it is. But you can consciously choose to alter the amount of NEAT expenditure in your day.

Moving too little

I know I harp on NEAT often here, but to my mind, it can't be stated often enough. On average, Americans are eating a bit less, but are still getting fatter. This article suggests the problem is that we (as a populace) are moving less. That's my conclusion based on my reading, contra this editorial published at BMJ by the above mentioned cardiologist (who should know better) and diet author. But my position is that it's not all about exercise, but rather it's mostly about NEAT most movement falls into the NEAT category for most people. Exceptions might be professional athletes or anyone training for the Olympics.

Standing desk backlash continues, this time in the guise of "standing doesn't burn enough calories." A new study measured the calories expended in a 15 minute time frame comparing sitting, standing and walking. No surprise, walking expends (burn) more energy than sitting or standing. The surprise (at least to those who haven't read Dr James Levine's research is that standing doesn't require that much more energy than sitting. Levine's data is similar to the new research— but the new research (per the New York Times article linked, I haven't seen the paper yet) placed additional requirements on the standing subjects. Specifically, the standing subjects were required to stand stock still and not move at all, which, as anyone who stands while working can tell you, is not how one stands at a desk.

Once standing, the body naturally moves about as weight shifts from foot to foot. I also find that when I'm standing I tend to walk a around a bit more, such as when I'm on the phone. So the researchers created a condition designed to minimize the energy expended. In any event, the difference between standing stock still and sitting was 2 calories per 15 minutes or 8 calories per hour. So if you stand stock still for 8 hours (and of course you would not) you would expend an extra 64 calories, which over time would add up, but certainly doesn't allow for an extra cookie at lunch as the Times noted.

Added 6.24.2016 Here's another reason to move— and only regular moderate movement is required. This too really isn't news, the evidence that moving improves aging has been apparent for awhile. This latest does emphasize that you do not have to be a serious athlete to see the positive effects. You just need to MOVE— be it walking, dancing or whatever other activity you enjoy to do it with regularity.

Portions matter, but does nutrient density?

This is another piece that's been languishing in the draft bin. More earth shattering research results: portion size matters! I think this is the BMJ article they were discussing. It mystifies me why this is considered news. If people are offered more food, they tend to eat more food.

The focus of the coverage is ultra-processed foods that come packaged in boxes or bags, which very often are technically multiple servings, but in reality many people treat it as a single serving. The suggestion then is that manufactured portions should be smaller, however smaller units means more packaging material, therefore more trash, as well as higher prices.

Exercise and drinking have an association. Makes you wonder if dessert eating would be linked as well. Anyway, the result is unsurprising because people do tend to mentally account for calories (even if they claim they do not) and "treat" themselves after physical activity, feeling that they've earned the extra calories. Calories are calories whether or not you eat or drink them. Drinking calories tends to be an easier way to ingest too many calories because liquids don't tend to satiate the way solid food does.

Does when you eat matter? The latest evidence is unclear. What is clear si that the total number of calories eaten or drunk matters.


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