Coronavirus Chronicles — The Ups and Downs of “Move More”

Does exercise achieve weight loss? Belief in the doctrine of “move more” comes and goes, and it is interesting to follow the progress of the idea through time, and through individuals who have very strong convictions based on personal experience.

Because of the current pandemic, all kinds of things are getting twisted. With fitness-related businesses closed, even people who fervently believe in exercise are often unable to do the things they need to do for their bodies. Or maybe they set up a home gym, and make so much noise it creates misery for the people in six neighboring apartments, who can’t escape because the libraries are closed. So are the coffee shops, but it doesn’t matter anyway because they are too broke to hang out. Or maybe sick.

A very small proportion of COVID-19 victims are hospitalized. Most suffer at home, with inadequate resources. The last thing they need is track-and-field activities going on upstairs. Another demographic is in trouble, too — people who have finally decided to get serious about taking care of themselves. Unfortunately, they came to that realization at a point in history where it is very hard to transform good intentions into action.

History of exercise beliefs

Anyway, in mid-2013, a belief was current that exercisers are wasting their time because they just get hungrier and eat extra. In response, journalist Liz Neporent declared the proposition “Exercise won’t help you lose weight” to be a myth, and here is why. She consulted James Hill, of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, who is discriminating about the studies he references. This quotation is relevant:

In the first place, many studies don’t use a high enough dose of exercise to promote weight loss. And secondly, exercisers do tend to compensate by eating more, but not enough to make up for all of the calories they burn up in exercise. They still create a negative energy balance…

Hill administers the National Weight Control Registry, which “tracks the health habits of thousands of people who have lost an average of 60 pounds and kept it off for at least two years.” What do most of those subjects have in common? More than 90% reported exercising for at least an hour per day.

It is not just about the basic energy in – energy out equation. Lack of exercise, says Hill, leaves a body vulnerable to metabolic defects, which make weight loss more difficult, and thus indirectly causes obesity, in addition to being generally bad for health.

Another aspect to consider

In the same approximate time frame, media celebrity Dr. Oz got in trouble for something he had done a couple of years before. On his popular TV show, he touted the green coffee extract as a “magic weight loss cure for every body type.” Now, that is what we call a sweeping generalization! Specifically, this product was said to reduce body fat by 16% in only 22 weeks, achieving a 17-pound weight loss.

Eventually, Dr. Oz was called before the Senate to explain himself to a consumer protection subcommittee. Apparently, he did not profit from recommending the substance, but in the eye of Chairperson Sen. Claire McCaskill, giving people false hope in a miracle cure was even more objectionable than making money from the product would be.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “6 Weight Loss Myths Debunked,”, 07/02/13
Source: “Dr. Oz Grilled In Congress, Admits Weight Loss Products He Touts Don’t Pass ‘Scientific Muster’,”, 06/17/14
Image by Frankie Leon/CC BY 2.0

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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.
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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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