The Exercise and Weight Loss Myth

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Note: This report is based on a general history of observing exercise culture in America. The order of events and cultural shifts are not specific and while some cultural ideas about exercise and body image may have existed for centuries, I am referring to shifts in the public perception en masse.

Bodybuilding, Exercise and the Weight Loss Myth Pick up any fitness magazine, watch any infomercial, or consult any web site and the topics related to health are largely centered around weight loss. Much of the information is about what kind of exercise is best for losing the fat that seems to collect in those stubborn areas of the body. Should we run for fat loss? Is weight lifting the best for burning fat? What yoga poses are best for shedding the pounds? And of course what types of core exercise should I do to get rid of belly fat? America is obsessed with the idea of working off the lard we just love to hate. We have thigh masters, weight machines, ellipticals and heart rate monitors all being used in the name working off the lard. This report is my personal attempt to show you how history proves that the idea behind exercising for fat loss is in fact a wild goose chase. In reality, the true purpose of exercise is not for fat loss, but instead to serve other means.
First, to better understand the exercise and weight loss theory we must dig a little deeper into our own fitness culture. Namely the ever-popular fitness culture of weight loss, body image and body shape. Also known as the culture of bodybuilding. Bodybuilding may seem like a small niche subculture of American fitness, but in fact, it’s the single largest aspect of American fitness by far. In fact, the reality is that most take to exercise for bodybuilding. The funny thing is most people who engage in exercise are in fact bodybuilders, even though they might not know it.

Yep you my friend could very well be a bodybuilder. Now before you start thinking I have completely gone insane, let's consider just what bodybuilding really is. When I say bodybuilding, what pops into your mind? Images of large men with muscles? People lifting huge weights with the look of anguish on their faces? People in small posing suits covered in oil? While I certainly won't deny these are facets of bodybuilding, they are in fact a tiny percentage of what bodybuilding really is in this country. Instead there is in fact a subculture to this subculture.
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Being the fit rebel I am, I think of fitness in different and unusual ways. One of my unusual characteristics of thought is how I define bodybuilding. To me, bodybuilding is the practice of modifying ones lifestyle in an effort to change and shape the appearance of the body. It's not always about large muscles and popping veins. Nope, a bodybuilder is anyone who wanted to trim a little here, shape a little there and ultimately change the image staring back in the mirror. If you have ever exercised, dieted or done anything to change the shape of your body then you my friend are in fact a body builder. Why do I have this definition? Simple, it's because the idea of exercising for the sake of appearance is a rather new concept. History has shown that for centuries the primary objective of exercise was to condition the body for function. If you lifted a heavy weight, the body would change and become conditioned so that it could lift the weight. If you were to run up a mountain, then again changes would take effect to help you run up that mountain. If you were to build a house out of brick then your body would again adapt so you could handle the workload associated with laying bricks. For centuries people trained to be good at what they did. They trained to be better fighters, hunters, builders or sportsmen. They trained for skill capability and function. The body responds to what is known as the S.A.I.D. principal which stands for specific adaptation to imposed demand. In other words, the body will change to accommodate the very specific function that is being asked of it. I like to think of it as the what-youchallenge-is-what-you-gain principal. If you challenge your balance then you gain more balance. If you challenge your endurance then you gain endurance and so on. And so the idea was simple. You took on exercise primarily for the purpose of function.
This was all fine and good until some time around the turn of the century when the circus strongman came about. Originally the strongman was an act that was meant to be a display of strength. These men would lift massive weights, bend metal bars and even break chains with their bare hands for the amazement of spectators.

It wasn't too long however before people came to see these strongmen not only for what they could do, but also what they looked like. Artists would paint and photograph their physique in artistic poses, and people would pay for the chance to simply admire the chiseled and beautiful physique of these vaudeville wonders.
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Mankind has been in love with the potential beauty of the human body since ancient times, but for the first time in modern history there were living breathing men like Greek statues walking among us and being publicly shown and admired. The circus Strongman brought about the cultural revolution that the aesthetics of the body were just as impressive as the function. Of course these strongmen saw the golden opportunity that was presented to them, and they started selling their knowledge. They didn't just sell the ability to lift heavy loads; they began to sell the knowledge on how you too can shape your body to look like theirs. The world of mail order fitness started to take shape.
After some time, Charles Atlas came onto the scene with his revolutionary marketing strategy of selling his strength training program. Charles was not only influential in growing the public perception of bodybuilding, but he marketed the idea that even the meek and weak kid who gets sand kicked in his face could build himself into a strong and muscular man. This ad campaign served to drive home the modern American idea that everyone can in fact change and modify their body. You didn't have to be born strong and muscular. You could in fact go from who ever you are now to the muscular man who commanded respect and admiration. The age of selling the dream of bodybuilding to the masses was born.

Despite the rise in popularity, bodybuilding was still seen by many as an extreme sort of activity. It was viewed primarily for growing large muscles and acquiring animal like amounts of strength for lifting heavy stuff. It wasn't very common for most people to engage in weight lifting to improve their function. In fact, weight lifting was believed to impair most athletic performance. It was still believed that the best way to get good at running was to run, the best way to get good at gymnastics was to do your back flips and so on. Weight lifting was a not yet viewed by the masses as a serious form of conditioning for athletics or even daily function. Even though the idea of changing the body’s image was starting to take hold in American culture, the primary reason to exercise was still to acquire a skill or capability. And so for some time weight lifting was done by those who wanted muscle and strength, while those who wanted performance followed the old "practice makes perfect" rule. Sure it might be nice to have large strong muscles, but most coaches and instructors believed that the muscle would just add bulk and impede performance. As time went on, the idea of weight lifting for conditioning started to catch on. To my knowledge it didn't start with any single event or individual, but I do know that Bruce Lee was a leader in the change.
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Bruce was one of the first martial artists on public record to use a regular bodybuilding and strength-conditioning program to enhance his martial arts. At the time, enhancing a martial arts conditioning program with classic bodybuilding techniques was pretty revolutionary. Even to this day there remain traditional martial arts instructors who believe a serious strength program will hinder performance. Bruce however was a fit rebel in his own right and he started to take the path less traveled. Not only did Bruce change his capability, but also his image changed and he developed the physique he was and still is famous for.
Around this time bodybuilding also started to become more mainstream. Films like pumping iron came about and Arnold Schwarzenegger burst onto the scene. Suddenly the subculture of bodybuilding started to gain a lot more traction in the general population.

So at the same time bodybuilding became more popular, the idea of lifting weights for increased performance started to take hold. The seeds of the benefits of exercise were now ready to sprout in the fertile soil of American culture. I should now note that bodybuilding was not always the showman sport that it is today. As I said, the notion of bodybuilding has some origins in the vaudeville and circus acts and these people would show off both their image and their skill in gymnastics and tumbling. The history of bodybuilding began through growing the capabilities of the body. The funny thing is that the modern sport of bodybuilding is a sport that judges contestants based on their appearance. You don't need to run, or even lift a heavy weight to win a bodybuilding contest, you simply need to appear and look good. The focus on bodybuilding became based much more on appearance and so the sport and culture of bodybuilding became less about what you can do and more about what you look like. Bodybuilders developed techniques and equipment that would solely focus on various parts of the body. Split routines became common and instead of working out the body in sets of movement (i.e. jumping running, push ups, climbing) it became common to work the body in parts with exercises for the arms, chest legs and so on. The goal became less about exercising for function and more for image. Around this time 2 things started happening in American culture. 1) The media started to focus more on the physical beauty of figure and 2) America started to go through some rapid technological advances. Movie stars were starting to be portrayed as not only having a beautiful face but also a killer body. As America went through the sexual liberation of the 60s and 70s, the body
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killer body. As America went through the sexual liberation of the 60s and 70s, the body became not something to be ashamed of but instead something of great admiration. It wasn't long before bodybuilders were not the only ones who started to look at their body with a critical eye. While an individual’s body has always been something to admire or dislike to some degree, the media of modern day America took the public awareness of body image to a whole new level. With celebrities baring more skin and people taking notice, the media now had more than just a pretty face to sell. They now had a fit body to market as well. With the advance of technology and American dietary habits, people slowly started to become a little more sedentary and our diets began to become a bit more like they are today. Americans started to discover themselves becoming softer and a bit rounder.
So think about it this way, at the same time we became more aware of the human body as a possible beautiful and sculpted status symbol, we were also starting to turn into a culture that made achieving that body a little more difficult. Ultimately what was happening was that as a culture, we created a demand for a product (a perfect body) by both making that product more scarce and harder to achieve.

A New Way to Exercise Bodybuilding seemed to be the solution for some people, but we still needed a bit more fitness culture advancement to make it appealing to the masses. The actual sport of bodybuilding was still an extreme that mostly embraced by men and once again the primary image that bodybuilding gave was that of excessive muscle and might. It was hardly a product that everyone would go for. Now enter Dr. Cooper and his research on a new form of exercise he liked to call aerobics. Aerobics seemed to be the answer to those who didn't want the image and persona of the body builder. It was a lower intensity form of exercise that could be done for an extended period of time. Even though cardio is a popular choice of exercise today, it took a lot of research and study to even convince people that a cardio based form of exercise was effective for fitness or even any good at all. Over time though, the science started to pour in and one by one scientists started to speculate that aerobics could in fact help the body prevent all manner of disease and
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disability. It was the latest and greatest in the search for the fountain of youth. There was one other benefit to aerobics that the masses discovered. People who were previously living a rather sedentary lifestyle now started to lose weight. So here at last was a form of exercise anyone could do that was not competitive like a sport (so you didn't need to be a jock or be part of a team), nor was it as extreme as bodybuilding. It was a form of exercise for the masses. So at this point we have come to a shift in American exercise culture. With mass media portraying physical perfection for both men and women, the emphasis of fitness had begun to shift from what you can do, to what you look like. With modern dietary and sedentary cultural habits taking America by storm we found ourselves spiraling into physical shapes that were soft, round and unfortunately more and more common. With more people losing the "image" of being in shape, gyms and exercise companies started to recognize there are dollars to be made. And so in true Charles Atlas fashion, the marketing call goes out to the masses. The images are slightly different, the sales copy is also different, but the message is always the same; "You too can look like this! You can trim, sculpt, shape, lengthen and enhance all of these various parts of your body!"
Welcome to modern day fitness culture - where image and presentation is every bit if not more important than what you are actually capable of. And so advertisements in magazines and on infomercials inundate us with images of how people used to look picture A and now look like they do in picture B. Or the images simply display airbrushed and computer generated perfection that once again makes the premise of "you too can look like this."

The modern age of the bodybuilder is here. The bodybuilder is someone who exercises largely for the image rather than the capability of their body. We are a culture of people who exercise to shape, tone, sculpt and slim or grow. We exercise for image; we are all bodybuilders to one degree or another. Unlike bodybuilding, the physical culture of the athlete has changed little. The goal has always been the same - to dominate the competition. The methods to do so have certainly changed over the years with the use of weight training, cross training, and steroid use, but in the end it's the same. The athlete trains to enhance capability. The athlete and the bodybuilder are two different ends to the fitness objective scale, and most people are both an athlete and a bodybuilder to some degree. I hardly ever run into an athlete who doesn't enjoy showing off a little muscle on the beach and clients often tell me that they love the feeling of how easy a flight of stairs has become.
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clients often tell me that they love the feeling of how easy a flight of stairs has become. Yes, we all exercise for both capability and image. Okay now that we know the difference between training for performance and training for image, it's time to lay down the weight loss and exercise myth.
The point of my little story is to show that bodybuilding, training to enhance one’s image, is a cultural phenomena and not a natural one. Not all cultures have embraced exercise to shape the human body; many are still dominated by an athletic mentality that focuses on training for performance and capability.

Whereas mankind has trained for performance since the dawn of civilization, the notion of bodybuilding, at least as a massive cultural movement, is very new as it has only been around for about 50 years or so. So in a way, you could say that the bodybuilding culture is something that was created by man. The perfect and shapely body is an objective that is manufactured and hence artificial. On the other hand, athletic training was done for reasons humans have grappled with since the dawn of civilization. The need to enhance the body’s ability is natural. So now that we know the cultural differences between bodybuilding, let's look at the scientific differences. The purpose of bodybuilding is to change the image of the body. With the exceptions of various growths such as tumors or warts, there are only two aspects of your body that can cause you to change your shape and size. 1) Muscle. 2) Fat. What's more you can only change two things about each of these aspects. 1) You can grow them 2) You can shrink them. That's it. For all of the descriptive words and adjectives we can use for shaping the human body you only have two things you can change (fat and muscles) and you can only do two things to them (grow or shrink.) Those are your only options when it comes to bodybuilding. For the most part, the art of enhancing someone’s image involves losing fat and building muscle. Nearly every
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of enhancing someone’s image involves losing fat and building muscle. Nearly every magazine cover and infomercial product sells you on the exactly the same idea time and time again: build muscle and lose fat. As far as an athlete is concerned you can do far more. You can train strength, endurance, balance, power, flexibility and coordination. These are all things that need to be trained in very specific ways so the body can assume the capabilities you need for your particular activity. So when it comes to bodybuilding you have few options (making things really simple) and the athlete has many options to consider.
The Exercise Myth

If I give you an exercise, any exercise, the body can and probably will make many changes within itself if the stress of that exercise deems it necessary. These changes can affect everything from your nervous system to your muscles to your blood to even your skin and bones. An exercise is like a stone being thrown into a pond that is your body. The ripples spread throughout affecting nearly everything. These changes are done for one reason and one reason only: to make sure your body is capable of handling the stress of the task. Nature's primary concern is to make you capable and it can adapt many various aspects of your body to do just that. The way I see it, exercise is basically like a program in a computer. Each time you do a push-up or run up a hill you are essentially programming your body to be capable of those actions.
One thing to note is that many of the cells in your body are in a constant state of turnover. As you’re reading this you have skin cells, muscle cells and bone cells that are being broken down and removed. At the same time, you also are building new cells. Just how many cells are being broken down and how many are being built up? Well that all depends on the exercise or "programming" you are entering into your body. If you keep walking up stairs every day, then your body is constantly being reprogrammed to rebuild the structures necessary to do that action. If, however, you stop using stairs for a while, the body will no longer be programmed to rebuild the same way. It will then use the new program without the stair climbing ability.

If you don't use it, you lose it.
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The bottom line is this: your body is constantly making adjustments due to the programming you give it through activity. You can program your body to do anything form riding a bike across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope to hanging up sheet rock. From Mother Nature’s perspective, the reason behind any sort of exercise is to condition and program your body to be able to do whatever it is you are doing.

So if you are lifting a weight over your head, you are programming your body to be able to lift that weight over your head. If you are using an elliptical you are programming your body to use that elliptical, and so on.
Here's the kicker, to my knowledge, I have yet to find any activity that in and of itself, will program the body to burn off extra flab. As I stated before, the S.A.I.D. principal will basically enhance any aspect of your body that you challenge. You can challenge muscle, you can challenge your nervous system and so on. I have yet to find a way to challenge fat. Mother nature could care less if you have cellulite or not.

I have seen people who are overweight run marathons, kick my butt in bike races and soundly beat me in martial arts competitions. Sumo wrestlers are very strong and in fact great athletes who train for hours upon hours each day, and yet they still carry plenty of fat on their body. The world of amateur and even pro athletes is filled with people who have some extra flab and are more than capable at doing what they do. The point is simple: the body doesn't generally see fat as a factor in performance. Those extra 10 pounds are no more concern to your body when it lifts a weight or rides a bike than what type of shirt you are wearing. In this way, we can understand why some people can exercise all day long and work their tail off and still not lose a single ounce of fat. As I said, some of the cells in your body are in constant turnover, breaking down and rebuilding. Fat cells however enjoy no such characteristic. Instead fat cells are with you until the day you die, unless you get them surgically removed. This means that the fat cells can't be programmed like the cells in muscle or bone. They are basically immune to the effects of exercise. So to recap: -There is a difference between bodybuilding and training for function -Our American society is very image conscious and we turn to bodybuilding to feed our desire for a better appearance. -The purpose of exercise from nature’s perspective is to become capable of doing an activity rather than how you actually look. -The fat levels on your body have little effect on your body’s capability (within some reason)
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reason) -Since exercise is meant to change the capability of the body, the fat on your body is immune to the direct effects of exercise. So while we may exercise for fat loss, it pays to understand that fat loss is not a direct effect of exercise, and in fact you can certainly exercise very hard and not lose any extra fat at all. After all you don't need to lose the fat to run, jump or lift so what incentive is there to get rid of it? Now I know what you are thinking, "But people have lost fat doing exercise for centuries, it's a proven fact that people can lose fat taking up an exercise program.” I'm not debating that people can lose fat while exercising; hell I myself have lost fat riding my bike. The point I am trying to make is to break down the idea that the true purpose of exercise is to shed fat. From Mother Nature’s perspective it's not. However we are constantly hit with magazine articles that give us exercises that are to shed fat or a workout program that will target fat loss. Such a thing is not possible. You can't target fat loss through exercise. Our bodybuilding culture has taught us to believe that the point of exercise is to shed fat, but if we look at the history of exercise, the point of exercise is not to shed fat, but to become capable. Here is the good news: Your body doesn't burn fat under specific circumstances. It doesn't burn fat only during cardio or with certain exercises. It simply burns fat nearly every minute of your entire life! How cool is that?! Here we are looking for the combination to unlock out fat stores and it’s actually been unlocked the whole time. It's kind of like standing outside the house waiting for the locksmith to arrive only to discover the door was unlocked the whole time! While fat cells may not break down and rebuild, the fat inside those cells does recycle. In fact, for the average person, the fat on your body will be burned off in a month or two. So if the fat on your body is going to burn off in less time than a school summer vacation, why does it seem to always be on our bodies?
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Simple, it's going back on just as fast as it's burned off. Fat levels are pretty simple. Like muscle, if you build it faster than it's being burned, then it grows. If you break it down faster than it's going on, then it shrinks. If it doesn't do anything then you have a balance between the two. The million-dollar question is how do you create the negative balance so you start losing fat. Naturally there are only two things you can do to chance the balance, you either limit how much is going in or you increase how much is going out. It's this going out that happens when we exercise. The thing to note though is that you can torch extra fat and calories doing anything. It doesn't have to be cardio or weight lifting. I know friends who have lost weight going from a desk job to a floor job at a hardware store, and I know people who have lost extra inches taking up dancing or even gardening. Since you are always burning fat, you simply need to increase the amount you are burning. As long as you have more going out than is going in, you will burn it off. The challenge now facing us is how do we increase our “out put”? With so many machines and labor saving devices we have nearly made human movement obsolete. These days, human movement has become a past time, a hobby and as such we simply don't do very much of it. And so we are always on a quest for the best way to move and hence burn off extra flab. We analyze movements and create workout programs in hopes we might hit that special combination to unlock the fat. We are searching and the witch-hunt continues for the exercise that will challenge fat. At this point we are left with lots of questions. What about restricting calories to achieve the negative balance for fat loss? If we can move and be active and lose fat, what are some of the ways we can maximize our time? Is it important to maintain the capabilities of an exercise that we have no real world application in? (Like when are you ever going to need to really lie on your back and press 300 pounds up over your neck?)

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Should our exercise become based more for function? Even if we are not athletes and we don't desire an improvement in function, what should we do? Why can one person run four marathons and not lose one pound and someone else can just take up walking and shed fat like water off a duck? What are the influences of our mental and emotional state on fat loss? Is it all simply about what the body does? While no one can know everything all at once about fat loss, these are questions I hope I can answer for you in future editions of the Fit Rebel Free Press. For now though you have a foundation of understanding about what exercise and fitness really is that most people lack. This will leave you better equipped to go forth and build your own fitness program and lifestyle that won't take you down and dead ends towards fat loss. Instead of thinking what you can do to specifically target fat, simply look for ways to spend as many calories as possible while managing your intake to reasonable levels. That alone will bring anyone further than any fat burning or belly blasting exercise ever created. It's not a complicated solution and it shouldn't be because the solution to fat loss was never complex. We simply have been looking in 100 different directions for the right path to travel while all the while we just needed to stop and think about what we are really doing. For now though, exercise and be active in things you enjoy. It's far better to go through life doing what you love rather than what you dislike simply because you believe it is the only way to burn fat. Be fit and live free, Matt Schifferle

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DOCUMENT INFO
Description: A simple history of human exercise shows why the link between exercise and weigt loss has been built on lies, assumptions and strit up guess work. Plus what really does cause lasting weight loss.