04 February 2010

Millions of people 'waste their time by jogging'

Supports Chapter Twelve: Exercise care

When I wrote my first book, The Calorie Fallacy, in 1993, I included a chapter about the lack of weight loss benefit from such exercises as jogging. Apart from my Fluoride book, all of my books since then have included a chapter about the lack of evidence that exercising has much significant benefit to health. Even though I like to think of myself as an athlete, I recognise the difference between being 'fit' and being 'healthy'. Many people seem to think of the two words are synonymous, but they aren't. You can be fit enough to run a marathon, but drop dead of a heart attack walking to the start. The classic example is Jim Fixx, who started the jogging craze with his book, The Complete Book of Running, in 1977. He died of a heart attack while jogging!

Now, according to a study reported in the Daily Telegraph, the secret is out: "millions of people who strive to keep fit by jogging, swimming or going to the gym are wasting their time."

The article says: Researchers have discovered that the health benefits of aerobic exercise are determined by our genes - and can vary substantially between individuals.

Around 20 per cent of the population do not get any significant aerobic fitness benefit from regular exercise, according to an international study led by scientists at the University of London.

For these people, regular jogging and gym work will do little to ward off conditions like heart disease and diabetes which aerobic exercise is generally thought to resist.

Researchers say they would be better off abandoning their exercise regime and focusing on other ways of staying healthy - such as improving their diet or taking medication.

Read the rest of the story here


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,
I think that a lot of people don't realise the difference between healthy enjoyable exercise and over-the-top push-yourself-to the limit exercise. A colleague of mine is always running (not jogging) and is always ill.
But don't neglect the psychological side! I work out on an exercise bike and with weights while watching the TV (boredom!) and I feel great afterwards. It's great for relieving stress, and as we all know, stress is a real killer!
Keep up the good work!

Ilya said...

Don't want to disappoint you but besides trying to harness cheap popularity THIS specific posting of yours is just how the devil reads the Bible. Only 20% did not show any notable benefit, or 1 in 5. And this was based on 30 minutes of low intensity exercise, a limited 500 participants, 20 weeks and attributed to "unfit" genes- a definitely sham study promoting Big Pharma interest and the mantra of genetic doom - total crap. They needn't labour that much to push their dumb agenda- yes, we are genetically programmed to die, so what? Oh, I forgot that we should fork over our money to Big Pharma before that. Exercise has undeniable benefits- it increases skeletal muscle fat oxidation, FFA serum clearance, lowers insulin,blood sugar and core body temperature, increases the HSP(heat shock proteins), UCP-2 and UCP-3 and HIF-1a in skeletal muscle thus creating definite cardio and whole health protective effect. Fitness does NOT lower weight, it's the most common misconception. On the contrary and it also ups metabolism which is a pre-condition for a later weight gain. However besides this askew posting I find the others much more informative and objective. Regards.

Barry Groves said...

Unfortunately, Ilya, I'm on vacation on a small island off the west coast of Africa, and haven't got access to my library. However, I have yet to find any definitive evidence that suggests that exercise has much effect on health, be it cardiovascular or diabetic. I tend to agree with Dr Henry Solomon: "You may enjoy exercise; it may be helpful socially; it may make you look and feel better. But all the rest is myth."

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

My "library" (pubmed) says otherwise. There's nothing wrong with low or high level aerobic exercise or resistance exercise for that matter, and there's alot that's right. The problem is that most people don't understand that their exercising caloric expenditure is not that much higher than their basal metabolic rate, so they overcompensate with food as a reward for their good behavior, and their "reward" tends to be sugary junk. They need to get the diet right in addition, not dump the exercise. That said, if they do get their diet right, the exercise can be done in moderation and still provide health benefits.


Barry Groves said...

Hi all

As there is much on both sides of this subject, I have published a full article on my website.

I'm not against a certain amount of exercise - something has to keep the lymphatic system working, after all - but the word 'exercise' seems to mean doing more than normal to most people. Thigs like jogging and paying lots of money to 'gyms' so they can walk or run on machines indoors, rather than doing the same thing in the much healthier environment called 'outdoors'.

Anyway, here is it, I welcome your thoughts on the whole thing

Ilya said...

Barry, you are trying to steer the boat your way (probably to Cabo Verde, if this is the West African island you are on a vacation). Exercise alone does NOT bring to a weight loss as I noted. Here is rebuttal of Dr. Solomon and whoever agrees with him.
Efficiency of Intermittent Exercise

These are SOME of the benefits of exercise on WHOLE Health.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Ilya,

Not quite so far south, I'm on Lanzarote in the Canaries.

I disagree with you most strongly. That paper doesn't rebut anything.

Firstly it is a study on rats, not humans. One thing I learned very early on was that, as far as diet and health were concerned, comparing the effects of diet in one species could not be extrapolated to a completely different species. (It was extrapolating the effects of dietary cholesterol in rabbits to humans that got us in the mess we are in today in the first place).

The second point is that in laying the foundation for this study, the first paragraph states:
"Among all other environmental influences, both high-fat diet and lack of or decline in daily physical activity are the most important factors for obesity development (3,7)."

That may be true of rats. However, in fact, in humans, neither a high-fat diet nor a lack of exercise has been shown to increase or lead to adiposity. The only things that have are our so-called 'healthy', low-fat carbohydrate-based foods.


Anonymous said...

Is better to do anaerobic excercise for health purposes? I read somewhere that an increase in strength is a much healthier adaptation compared to improving your cardio.

Ilya said...

Well you definitely went south on that.
First,Shifting the point to the different nutritional patterns between rodents and humans does prove NOTHING about the effects of exercise as VERY specifically underscored in my post. There are hundreds of studies on HUMANS about exercise and they show one definite thing. Exercise is BENEFICIAL. It does not help to lose wait but.
Second, to your great disappointment, high-fat diet is deleterious in populations with long-term heat acclimation as on the Pacific Islands, the Gulf, Africa and in BRASIL where this study was carried out and it DOES lead to adiposity there. There are reasons for that and they disprove the "one size fits all" and "we are what we eat" diet misconceptions however they do not prove your stance either. Regards.

Ilya said...

PS. Apologize for the spelling of "weight" in my post and I do believe this to be the only mistake.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Ilya

When it comes to diet, one size does fit all. We are all one species; our gastrointestinal tract the same no matter where we live. Just as all lions eat antelopes, and all rabbits eat grass, so humans should all eat the same basic food.

I have lived in some parts of the world you mention. South Pacific islanders eat a lot from the 'tree of life', the coconut, which is very high fat, and fish which is also fatty. The only overweight islanders I saw were those who adopted the 'tourist' diet.

I have also lived in Bahrain, in the Gulf and in North Africa. Here again fat is prized - and no-one eating the meat of the fat-tailed sheep was fat.

I have no experience of Brazil, but I know a man who has.

Earl Parker Hanson wrote extensively about the diet he found among tropical peoples in both Africa and South America. (Hanson EP. Journey to Manaos. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock. 1938.) He tells of how ‘the pygmies of the tropical Ituri forest will run miles to gorge themselves on the fat of a recently killed hippopotamus.’ They weren't overweight.

Neither were the Brazilian Indians he wrote extensively about. Hanson had long wondered about the glaring discrepancies in the nutritionists’ illogical arguments. ‘On the one hand, they say that fat is the most efficient energy food known; on the other they talk in doleful tones about the “debilitating” effects of the tropical climate. Why you should be careful to avoid energy giving foods in a climate that supposedly saps your energy has always been beyond me.’

Hanson’s first experience with fat shortage came on his 1931-1933 Orinoco-Amazon expedition. It started when his canoe Indians almost went on strike because he hadn’t included sufficient lard or other fat in his supplies. That was a situation that almost every newcomer to the Orinoco ran into, and the Indians made sure, before starting a journey, that their hirer had plenty of fats with him. Hanson says:
‘I bought enough fat to please my Indians, and then proceeded to eat on the journey from a separate pot, because I “couldn’t stand their greasy food.” It wasn’t many weeks, however, before I avidly grabbed at every turtle egg I could get hold of – for its rich oil as I now realize – and at every Brazil nut, avocado pear, and every other source of vegetable fat, when I couldn’t get animal fats.’

If he were going on another journey to the Amazon basin, Hanson says he would either take pemmican with him from the United States or spend some time in Brazil making pemmican before starting an expedition. (Pemmican is 50% dried lean meat and 50% fat by weight.)

Hanson wasn’t without his critics in the US. When he claimed that any healthy white man could stay in perfect health on any diet that keeps native populations and ‘primitive’ peoples in health, one ethnologist told him that he was quite wrong. She said she had tried such a diet for some weeks in Mexico, with almost disastrous results. Hanson asked her if she hadn’t had trouble adjusting her taste to the ‘greasy’ food of the Mexicans. She replied that ‘of course’ she and her companions had eaten ‘exactly what the Mexicans ate’, but had taken pains to prepare the food in a more appetizing way by leaving out the grease! The ‘disastrous results’ she then described were typical symptoms of fat shortage: constant hunger, discomfort, lack of energy, distended stomach, and so on.

On returning to the US and a mixed diet, he changed his food habits: where previously he had cut the fat off his meat and left it, he now ate all the fat he could get hold of. ‘ As soon as wartime restrictions are lifted on meats, and such animal products as cheeses, my diet is undoubtedly going to consist very largely of such foods. And if I return to the Amazon basin, I will never again differentiate between my meals and those of my Indians on the ground that the latter are too fat.’

If Brazilians are getting fat now, it is because of what they are eating with the fat.


Ilya said...

Now at least we have something we could partially agree on. But although protein and fat are highly prized it's rather because of their scarcity and they do not present an essential part in the diet of any of these regions. They do eat high-carbohydrate diets and as you have probably noticed in Bahrain-the fat-tailed sheep is rather a delicacy eaten at special occasions not an everyday meal. I'm quite enticed to say "Gotcha!" about these pygmies that didn't seem to "waist their time jogging" miles to the killed hippopotamus but hey, let's skip that. One size DOES NOT fit all as we live in different climates and some of us a heat acclimated vs. the other part which is temperate and cold acclimated. And while high-fat is not obesogenic, diabetogenic and atherogenic in temperate and cold acclimated people it is SO in heat acclimated people if this is not countered by...GUESS what...active exercise as in the Masai tribe in Africa, the pygmies and the Indians in South America, etc. And with this I rest my case. it was pleasure clearing this issue anyway. Thank you.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anonymous

I apologise for missing your post above. It seems to be the 'bouncy' and 'rapid direction change' types of exercise that are harmful to joints and internal organs - Things like jogging, playing squash.

I think it is now generally thought that 'slow-rep' exercise is healthier.

Hi Ilya

I think to some extent it depends on ghow one defines 'exercise'. Certaily the peoples you mention do walk a lot and run. It's part of their way of life. But we also do similar things - play games walk, do a bit of gardening, and so on. In this context, 'exercise' tends to mean some form of organised exertion over and above the normal daily tasks. Well, that's okay so far, but it seems invariably to be some form of high intensity workout where there is 'no pain, no gain'. It is this which is damaging. As Steve said above, stress is a killer - and most forms of physical exercise are stressful, raising cortisol levels. In the short term this is not a problem - it's part of the fight-or-flight reflex. But done to excess is not healthy.

It's a question of balance again.


Anonymous said...

What do you think about interval exercise. I do interval parkour. So I might run for a minute then walk and catch my breath for 2 or 3 minutes after that. I do many different kinds of high intensity training for a minute or two and then I rest.

I do the interval training in the morning (3 or 4 times a week)mixed in with lots of walking (this ensures that I also get more sun exposure) and at night I usually do some relaxing meditation. Nothing stressful on my part


Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Barry,

Nice article. I would like to use some of your articles here to post it on http://www.cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?board=32.0

Any objections?

Barry Groves said...

Hi Shauna

The interval method as you describe it is similar to the method Boy Scouts were advised to use to travel quickly in the early days of the Scouting movement: 100 yards run alternating with 100 yards walk. I think it was probably devised during the Boer War. But whether it has any advantages in what you want to achieve, I really don't know, I'm afraid.

Hi Anon
I have no objection, so long as they are properly attributed and linked.


Anonymous said...

Does this also apply to strenght training or is it only cardio that are "useless" to some people? To my knowledge there are alot more science behind the benefits of resistance training.


Anonymous said...

[quote] Hi Anon
I have no objection, so long as they are properly attributed and linked.


February 16, 2010 8:33 AM [/quote]

Thanks Barry. We always do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr.Barry,

I've published your article at the link below.


Will publish more in the future.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barry

Just found your website....absolutely facinating...

I am a Dietitian working for the NHS.

Looking forward to reading all your articles and discussing with my collegues at work. We are open minded!

kind regards

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anon dietitian.

I'll be pleased to hear any comments. You might also like the latest item.


Tracy J. Holmes said...

This is really sad news...Now I wonder if I am one of the unlucky ones and the bad thing is, I've been jogging since I don't remember. Tough I notice that there is no significant difference in my weight; I still find it helpful in prolonging my stamina.

Barry Groves said...

Hi Tracy

While prolonged exercise does help to maintain stamina, that's probably all it does.

The idea that exercise is necessary for weight loss was disproved decades ago. It is based on the false idea that to lose weight 'calories in must be less than calories out'. This is explained in detail at Do Calories Really Count?.


Anonymous said...


what are you thoughts on the conclustion of rd. al sears md about his vieuw on exercise
you can read more about it at http://www.alsearsmd.com/pace2/jvnb/

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anonymous

Whenever I see a long, long web-page like that I always suspect some sort of scam, or a sales pitch.

I'm not sure he's wrong, but I'm not sure he's right either.

The headline "Florida Woman Drops 45 Pounds By Walking 45 Seconds" is clearly ridiculous. Forty-five pounds (of fat) is some 183,870 kilocalories. The only way to lose that amount in 45 seconds is with a very big, sharp knife

Even if that "45 seconds" was 45 seconds several times a day it would probably take many years to use that much energy.


Anonymous said...

Hi Barry,

Just read your post and its content interested me. I haven't yet read your

I complete agree with the concept of reduced carbs and sugar and increased saturated, omega 3 and mono fats.

I spent 2 years on a diet that consisted of meat, fish, veg and salad. With no bread, rice or pasta. I reduced the amount of CV exercise I did and based my fitness work on a 3 day on, 1 day rest system, my work outs were no more than 15 minutes long and 2 were generally metabolic conditioning and 1 was strength. I also increased the amount of sleep I got. I also introduced

The results were startling, body fat melted, I became considerably more muscular, my resting pulse reduced to 48bpm. I started noticing that my endurance was unaffected and I did not crave sugar. The most startling effect was the increased energy and long term injuries and pains disappearing.

It did take me, a bit of time to adapt to this change, but my body corrected its metabolism to burn body fat as fuel .

I still have arguments with a couple a GP friends who still harp on about the health benefits of high carb low fat as scientific fact, even though in their medical training only one module covered nutrition.

The interesting point I would like to put is this: It is scientific fact that we have not evolved as a species in the last 20,000 years. We evolved as hunter gatherers , eating a mixed diet, which would have been high in protein and fat, with other food inputted as available. The onset of agriculture 20,000 years ago, brought with it a reliance on staples like grain and rice, with this came the increase of disease related to this, there have been studies on ancient Egyptian remains that confirms this . There have also been a number of studies based on human subjects not animals that prove the health benefits of high meat and fat intake, an interesting one was done by a group of polar explorers in the 20’s.

8 months ago I was injured mountain biking and therefore was unable to train in the same way. I started to cycle to work 20miles a day as a substitute and increase my carb intake to balance the increase of CV exercise. Predictability, my body fat increased and my immune system lowered.

While I agree with a diet high in Fat and Protein and low in carbs, I don’t think short bursts of regular intensive exercise combined with rest should be ruled out. Rob Wolf writes an interesting blog which you might find of interest.



Barry Groves said...

Hi Mackenzie

That's pretty much the way I have lived for 50 years, and what I write about.

Robb Wolf's blog seemed to be podcasts. I'm a reader.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: It is scientific fact that we have not evolved as a species in the last 20,000 years.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/11/science/11evolve.html says

"A surprisingly recent instance of human evolution has been detected among the peoples of East Africa. It is the ability to digest milk in adulthood, conferred by genetic changes that occurred as recently as 3,000 years ago, a team of geneticists has found."

Barry Groves said...

Hi Anonymous

The article is interesting. Thanks for alerting me to it.

You state that Homo sapiens hasn't evolved at all during the last 20,000 years (do you have a reference for that?). My understanding is that all species evolve as their environment changes. If they didn't, they would become extinct. Isn't that why Homo neanderthalensis is now extinct? They didn't adapt to the changing climate?