Evolving Attitudes and Exercise

Way back in Volume 1, Issue 2 of the journal Obesity Research, we find “Exercise and Obesity” by Dr. Claude Bouchard, Jean‐Pierre Depres, and Angelo Tremblay. It presents the evidence for “a role of regular exercise in the prevention and the treatment of obesity and of its metabolic complications.”

The Abstract says,

The evidence suggests that regular exercise can be an important factor in the development of sustained negative energy balance conditions provided the volume of activity is high. This implies a program of low to moderate intensity exercise performed on an almost daily basis for at least one hour per session. To induce significant weight and fat losses and to treat overweight and obese patients, compliance to the program for several years becomes a necessity.

“Energy balance” of course refers to the idea that calories ingested and calories expended in exercise are the sole and only factors in obesity. The researchers regrettably reported that the long-term benefit of exercise seems to be negligible, with a tendency to disappear as soon as physical effort ceases to be made. But obese people should do it anyway, because even if they don’t lose an ounce in weight, the improved insulin sensitivity makes it all worthwhile.

Ten years ago, the Safe Routes to School program had reportedly doubled the number of kids who walked or rode bikes, to and from school. Less than 10% of all schools provided daily physical education, and even then, the definition is open to interpretation.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recommended that every child should have 20 minutes per day of vigorous activity (involving sweat and hard breathing.) Reportedly, the Foundation heavily influenced the Obama administration’s policies around health care and fitness.

Another angle

In 2011, Vanderbilt University’s Energy Balance Laboratory studied a dozen marijuana users who had no intention or desire to quit. They ran on treadmills for 10 sessions of 30 minutes each, over a two-week period. The experiment sought to determine whether regular exercise would reduce their frequency of use, and it did.

This was the first study to demonstrate such an effect, and reportedly the subjects’ cannabis use was reduced by more that 50%. The report’s co-author, Peter Martin, M.D., said,

This is 10 sessions but it actually went down after the first five. The maximum reduction was already there within the first week.

This could mean many things, including that the body assimilates THC molecules more efficiently in active people than in sluggish layabouts. In recent years, many elite athletes in different fields have spoken openly about their cannabis use for both training and recovery. Rock-climbers, weight-lifters, skiers, enthusiasts of jiu-jitsu and other martial arts; and to an even greater extent, people who engage in low-impact activities like yoga and hiking. They are said to become aware of their bodies in new ways that lead to a striving for healthful change.

Attitude adjustment

In those days, like many other fitness mentors, Health and Wellness Coach Ellen G. Goldman always emphasized to her clients that physical exertion needs to be regular and consistent. Her recommendation was 150 minutes per week, including cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength components. And, if they were exercising chiefly to lose weight, they would probably suffer disappointment.

The reason to do it is for overall health and well-being, because exercise cultivates not only physical strength and endurance, but a better mental outlook and improved self-esteem. Those qualities, in turn, encourage people to look more closely at their eating habits, and enable them to make helpful changes. Sometimes, they even lose weight! This attitude of plugging away at it, while not expecting miracles, is very helpful and has become widespread.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Exercise and Obesity,” Wiley.com, March 1993
Source: “F as in Fat: How Obesity threatens America’s Future, 2010,” RWJF.org, June 2010
Source: “Vanderbilt study shows exercise can curb marijuana use and cravings,” Vanderbilt.edu, 03/04/11
Source: “Can You Be Overweight and Healthy?,” SparkPeople.com, 09/20/11
Image by Fit Approach/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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