weight lifting
Approximately 10% of Americans claim to be regular runners. Almost 60 million Americans belong to a gym and about $19 billion dollars a year are spent on gym membership fees. The plethora of fitness centers along with their yoga, aerobics, spinning and CrossFit classes, hiking clubs and sports leagues would suggest that in this country, at least, we're quite fit. Wrong. As a nation, we're fatter and sicker than ever. Why? What happened to all the bikini bods, six pack abs and boundless energy that exercise proponents and personal trainers promised? Why has "eating less and exercising more" proven to be little more than a weight loss pipe dream for most people?

Sure there are multiple proven benefits to regular exercise but it seems that the practice has been vastly oversold, over-emphasized and over-hyped. Is it time we stopped getting all hot and bothered over working up a sweat? Join us for this episode of The Health and Wellness show as we take a closer look at the workout fad, what it's good for and what aspects need to be disregarded.

And stay tuned for Zoya's Pet Health Segment, where she tells us about the shrinking brains of domesticated animals.

Running Time: 01:09:44

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Tiffany: Good day everyone and welcome to the Health & Wellness Show. Today is Friday, September 28, 2018. I'm your host Tiffany and joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Doug, Erica and Elliot. Good morning.

All: Hellos.

Elliot: I just realized it's not morning here where I am. {laughter}

Tiffany: Well it's morning here and I'm the host, so we're saying good morning. {laughter} So Gaby and Jonathan are off today but they should be back sometime soon. Our topic for today is exercise. Exercise Schmexercise - what the hell are we running from? This is an introduction. Approximately 10% of Americans claim to be regular runners. That seems like a stretch to me, but that's what they say. Almost 60 million Americans belong to a gym and about $19 billion a year are spent on gym membership fees. You have the yoga classes, aerobics, spinning, CrossFit, hiking clubs, sports leagues, bowling leagues. So it would seem like as a country that we're in pretty good shape and we're fit, but we're not. We're more obese and sicker than ever. More people have diabetes type II than ever, even kids.

So we've heard a lot about how exercise is fantastic to get you into shape, to help you lose weight. You can get a six pack. You can have great health and boundless energy and everyone just says exercise and move more and everything'll be okay but that that hasn't proven to be the case. So we're going to talk about exercise during our show today, the benefits, detriments and the misconceptions and the myths. So where to we want to start?

Doug: I think we can start with the fact that you included bowling in that. {laughter} How can we define exercise. I don't know if I would put bowling in there.

Tiffany: Well some people would say that bowling is exercise. {laughter}

Erica: So is table tennis. Ping pong.

Tiffany: I think that's part of the problem because some people define exercise as anything that involves your body moving.

Doug: Yeah. Well looking on Wikipedia here, it says that exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. I don't know. Have you seen some of the professional bowlers? I don't know if you could really look at them and think, "Yup, that dude is in peak physical condition." {laughter}

Tiffany: Even some of the golfers. They're a little pudgy too and they do a lot of walking and people are always saying "Walk for thirty minutes a day".

Erica: They actually don't do a lot of walking. They have those caddies drive them around. {laughter}

Tiffany: Guess that shows how much I know about golf. But they show them walking on TV. They don't show them in the little carts.

Erica: I'm just kidding.

Doug: I don't know if that definition of exercise really does justice. Maybe it's just that you really have to look at what is actually providing some level of physical fitness because when they get down to the minutia of calorie burning and stuff, they're talking about things that you really can't consider exercise. I'm just thinking, "Oh yeah, I exercise because I do things around the house". I don't know if I would put that in the category of exercise.

Tiffany: Some people consider gardening exercise. Some people would consider walking a few blocks to the subway and back every day as exercise and I don't know if I'll count that either. But then other people will take it to the extreme, like personal trainers because they have a vested interested. They say unless you are huffing and puffing and sweating, then you're not exercising. So I don't know really.

Doug: Anything that burns calories cannot be considered exercise because the fact of the matter is, if you're alive, you're burning calories. So we need to have a definition that goes a little bit beyond that because breathing, sleeping, those things burn calories. So I don't think you can really call that exercise.

Tiffany: Eating burns calories.

Doug: Well yeah, there you go.

Elliot: It's kind of an ambiguous definition or it's kind of an ambiguous term I think, exercise is. I don't know if anyone really knows exactly how to define it. I would say a possible working definition is something which is a stressor on the physical body which is sufficient to evoke an adaptive response in some way which is anabolic, which means that it can rebuild tissue. It can promote the building or re-building of muscle. And likewise, an adaptive response which can upregulate our capacity to use oxygen, our capacity to function optimally. I wouldn't say that walking does that.

Doug: No.

Elliot: Again, I don't know where to draw the line there because I think lots of things do do that, but at the same time it's a bit gray.

Doug: I think that you could say that not all movement is necessarily exercise. Walking I would probably put into the movement category rather than exercise.

Tiffany: But power walking.

Doug: And also it depends on the person, right? Because somebody who's really out of shape, walking is exercise whereas I think a person who's in reasonably good condition, if they just go for a walk, that's not really a stressor.

Tiffany: It's more of an enjoyable activity or a means of getting from point A to point B.

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: And it does have some benefits in terms of increasing insulin sensitivity or decreasing blood glucose. There are some research studies which show that getting up every thirty minutes and walking around for two minutes, because of the increased demand of energy from the muscles and legs, typically what it does is reduce blood glucose and it does increase the rate of energy expenditure. But ultimately it's not a stressor. It doesn't really have the same effect as something like lifting weights would have or something like that.

Erica: Well I think it's interesting that this word exercise is now becoming so popular. Maybe 50 years ago was there this mad dash to go to a gym?

Tiffany: No. Back in the 60's actually, they used to tell people "Shouldn't exercise very strenuously. It's bad for you." Especially if you're old. Now they're telling everybody to start working out.

Erica: I think part of it - this is my speculation - with, as Tiffany said, the rise of obesity and diabetes and juvenile diabetes especially and children getting bigger, I think children are the fastest growing number of people being diagnosed with those types of diseases. Now all of a sudden doctors are recommending exercise instead of addressing the whole food pyramid issue that we've talked about so many times on this show.

Doug: Yeah. You look at it this way. There's this obesity epidemic happening. But even before it was actually called an obesity epidemic it was pretty obvious to a lot of people that a lot of people are getting bigger and there's a lot of chronic disease happening. It seems like all these big corporate big food companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, people who are peddling garbage, poison as it were, glommed onto the whole exercise thing. Their best interest is to have people continue consuming their products. So rather than say, "Yeah, sugar's kind of bad and people probably shouldn't be having it", they're like, "No! It's just that people aren't exercising enough."

Tiffany: Yeah.

Doug: I think that this is actually somewhat of a myth. Everybody says, "Back in the day we were a lot more active." That may be true to a certain extent. But it's not like your average person was doing vigorous exercise on a daily basis necessarily. There are certain jobs maybe, like farming where there were periods of greater physical activity but I don't think it was 365 days a year everybody was getting up and working until they collapsed.

So I think a lot of the idea is actually just promulgated by people who don't want to confront the food issue.

Tiffany: And there's a lot to gain for people who actually work in the fitness industry. They have clients. They have bills to pay. They want to make money. If they don't see results when they have somebody coming in when they're training them to help them lose weight with exercise and they don't see any results, they're just going to keep on with "Let's just try this different exercise" and "You're not exercising hard enough" or "You need to exercise more days a week or twice a day".

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: So if you look at the average energy expenditure, like Doug was saying, it is true that generally we live more sedentary lives and we were more active but if you look at the amount of calories, it doesn't necessarily account for what we're seeing with the obesity epidemic today. Yes, we were expending more calories but generally what the research show, per my understanding, is that the body has quite tight limits on how much it expends an how much it consumes. So if you spend more calories it's very likely that you have mechanism with your satiety and your hunger which kick and say "Okay, we've spent more so we need to eat more today". Maintaining that balance is quite tight. So just saying "Okay, we have sedentary lifestyles now, can that necessarily account for us getting really fat?" Well no, it probably can't. So you have to look at what else has changed.

There is the activity part of it but there's also the fact that now we have so many empty calories, sugary drinks and whatnot. What I find very interesting is the fact that when you take out nutrition from food, say for instance you take out the nutrients from the sugar cane and you put them into a glass of coke or something and then someone drinks that, really the body is adapted to whenever it consumes energy it also consumes a vast number of nutrients at the same time. So for the body to be able to effectively process that energy, whether it be fat, protein or carbohydrate, you need micronutrients. You need vitamins and you need minerals.

As I just said, whenever you would be consuming protein, fat or carbohydrates, you would also have an abundance of vitamins and minerals in the same package, the same food compartment. The problem is that what we've done is we've taken out all those micronutrients nutrients but we keep all of the macronutrients. The problem with that is I think the body also on some level can sense whether it is low on micronutrients.

So I think this is one of the ways that might actually drive hunger; "Okay, we need more vitamins and minerals so we need to eat more food". So people generally eat more food but if that food is depleted of vitamins and minerals they continue eating because their body is craving these things but it's not actually getting them. I don't know if that's been verified in any studies but I tend to think that that might actually be a part of this as well. Their body's craving what it actually needs but because it's so depleted in our food supply, people just generally keep eating, along with everything else.

Erica: And the portion sizes are so much larger too of what people eat compared to about 50 years ago.

Tiffany: And then with the ubiquitous nature of gyms being all around people can just say, "Oh well, I can eat like a pig right now and then I'll just work it off later today."

Doug: Yeah. I think that's really the detrimental myth that surrounds this thing, that exercise is all about calorie burning and that it's a really very linear relationship. So if I eat too many calories now, I can go to the gym and I can work it off later. But things are really not that simple. It's much, much more complicated than that and I think that's why you see people on the treadmills every day and they're just not changing at all. You don't see any kind of weight loss in these people because it is a much more complicated picture than that.

Tiffany: Yeah, when you can eat half a muffin and that would be the amount of energy you would expend by walking on the treadmill for a while, just a half a muffin.

Doug: If you drink a Coke, you've got to exercise a lot to actually burn those calories.

Elliot: Yeah. This is something that we need to really go through because this is such a common misconception. Even if the science clearly does not back it up, it's still so ubiquitous. It's so common for people to have this mindset, that they can eat a really poor diet and then go and exercise it off. But when you look at the amount of calories, like you just referenced, half a muffin, let's say in half a muffin you might have 200 calories and then you look at the amount of energy or the amount of exercise that you need to do on a treadmill to offset that, that's like half an hour's running at a nice pace.

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: And you think, okay how many calories does somebody consume? Average 2,000-2,500, so if you were to burn off all of the extra calories that you were eating you'd have to be exercising for a very long time in the day. You wouldn't have time to do anything else. So there are other mechanisms at play here. What we really need to understand is that the main determinant of how much energy someone expends is the basal metabolic rate, which accounts for all of the activity that your body is doing at rest. This means maintaining body temperature. This means keeping all of your organs working properly. This means maintaining an acid-based balance in your blood. This means all of the things that you're doing that you're not thinking about.

So this is really what accounts for the vast majority of someone's energy expenditure in the daytime and what determines how fast your basal metabolic rate is, is really dependent on several factors. One of them is your diet. Another one is various things like your organ functioning, for instance your thyroid gland. If your thyroid gland is working properly that will determine the rate of you metabolism. This is why people with hypothyroid or underactive thyroid glands typically have a lower basal metabolic rate and therefore they have more trouble losing weight than other people.

But what I think is really important to understand in the context of exercise is muscle mass. Other than the internal organs, the part of your body that uses the most energy is your muscles. Your muscles are the most metabolically active, apart from the internal organs. Really, how much lean muscle mass someone has is really the primary determinant of their metabolic rate. So the people with higher muscle mass burn more energy at rest. Just to keep it very simple, if we look at what muscles use as fuel, muscles use fatty acids at rest. People talk about burning fat. The way to burn fat is to increase muscle mass. If you can increase muscle mass, the times when you're going to be losing the most weight is not when you're doing exercise. That's wrong! The times when you're going to be losing weight is when you're at rest. It's the idea that when you've got more muscle, this is going to use more fuel and you're going to be tapping into your fat stores 24/7 and this is really what you want to be doing.

The problem is that when we look at these exercise gym bunnies who go and think that they can go jogging for half an hour or something, we realize that that doesn't actually really affect the muscle mass and it can actually have the opposite of the intended effect. I don't know if we want to go into that just yet.

Doug: Well we can go into it later.

Tiffany: Yeah, I think we should go into it later. I have a question to pose, since we were just talking about calories. How does the human body burn calories anyway because there have been lots of studies, 'this type of food has that many calories and this other food has this many calories' and they take the food and put it in some contraption and they set it on fire {laughter} and something else and this is how they determine how much calories a food has. But that is not how the human body works. We don't swallow a piece of hamburger and it ignites in flames in our stomach. {laughter}

Doug: We're steam powered.

Tiffany: How does that work? I guess I just wanted to point that out. I'm not even sure that the calories listed on a product is actually accurate and if it is accurate, it doesn't say anything about how our body uses those particular calories.

Elliot: Certainly. You're not a combustion engine so the experiments were done with a microwave type thing. It wasn't a microwave but it was like a little metal box and then the amount of energy that was given off when those food things were combusted. But the thing is your body is not a combustion engine so really, the rate at which your body can use those calories differs based on various different factors. So one person might be able to consume 2,000 calories and burn off that amount in the daytime and another person may consume 2,000 calories but ultimately only burn off 1,500 because of various things like their hormones and their mitochondria and whether they are stressed or not. If they are under chronic stress then this is going to down-regulate their metabolism.

So there are so many things that come into play here and it's not to say that calories-in-and-calories-out isn't true because it is true on a very basic level. But in human terms when you're looking at things like in a real life example, there are multiple other things that come into play.

Doug: Yeah. I think that the calorie myth is what the whole gym culture survives on, or the whole exercise culture, not even narrowing it down to just gyms. It's like this idea that everything is so simple and that a calorie is a calorie and whatever you take in, you have to expend more calories than you take in, in order to lose weight. It is a much more complicated picture than that.

Tiffany: I want to play devil's advocate here, just for a little while. Elliot you mentioned things about your level of mitochondria and your hormones and stress. I think that - I can use myself as an example - when I was in my mid-20s I lost a ton of weight. I was quite overweight at that time and I lost a ton of weight, like 150 pounds.

Doug: Wow!

Tiffany: It took a long time though. It took almost two years. But this was just through modifying my diet. It was still a standard American diet but it wasn't a bunch of junk food and fast food. I still ate wheat and carbs and all that stuff, and sugar sometimes. I ate low fat stuff too. {laughter} But I also exercised probably six times a week. I did walking at first,. then jogging and then I would lift weights. It worked and it works for a lot of people. But I think that the only reason that it worked is because I was young and I probably still had a lot of reserves. My hormones weren't quite as jacked up as maybe an older person's hormones would be and maybe I had more mitochondria because I've tried the same things at my age now, which is my mid-40s and I can actually exercise and gain weight now. But I certainly won't lose any weight. But a lot of people I know who are young in my family decide, "Oh, I want to lose weight" and they'll still eat crap and they'll just exercise and then all the weight falls off and then when they're older they try the same thing and it doesn't work.

So I think that age plays a part in it and I think that hormonal status plays a part in it too. But another thing you said Elliot, during that time when I was younger and I was exercising, there was pretty much no change in body composition. So can you talk a little bit about some detrimental things of over-exercising like muscle deterioration?

Elliot: This is the key thing as well because if you look at typically someone who does lots of exercise, usually cardio and they go on some sort of weight loss diet or they might even just eat similar things and they do lose weight, but we have to qualify what that weight is first of all. The problem is, it's fairly easy to lose weight but to lose fat is a different thing altogether because what you find is that in many of the weight loss studies, a lot of the weight is actually muscle mass.

Tiffany: Yeah. When people think of losing weight, what they really mean is losing fat but they just use the word weight.

Elliot: Yeah. Someone can look like they've lost a lot of fat but actually their body composition may actually still be quite poor in terms of their fat-to-muscle ratio. Ideally, if you were to lose weight in a healthy way, you would want most of it to be fat. Unfortunately many of the chronic exercise regimes and things actually promote muscle mass wastage.

Typically, if someone thinks it's a healthy thing to go jogging for two hours every day, six days a week - you see quite a lot of these people. When I go for my walks in the evening I see these people who are overweight and they're all sweaty and they're running and they've probably been running for two hours and they do this regularly because they think that this is going to help. But the problem is that when you put your body under a stressor like that - because that is a stressor, especially if somebody's overweight - when you put your body under a stressor you initiate the release of stress hormones. One of those stress hormones is called cortisol and cortisol is designed to mobilize energy and that's quick energy.

So what it really does is it breaks down your muscle mass. You may see that if you look at endurance athletes, long distance runners, marathon runners, or if you go to a marathon and you look at the people, you see that many of them are kind of stick thin and many of them look gaunt.

Tiffany: They're skinny fat.

Elliot: Yeah, skinny fat basically. I think that what this is due to is the over-reliance on chronic excessive stress hormones because when someone goes on a two or three-hour run, that's quite a stressful thing for the body and it needs some time to adapt to that and to recover from that. The problem is, these people are doing it all of the time, six times a week so there's a chronically elevated level of cortisol. This has been shown in the studies, that these people have chronically elevated levels of stress hormones running through their bodies. These stress hormones break down the muscle mass. The cortisol distress hormones have all sorts of other consequences, particularly for things like immunity and whatnot. But what you find is that these people are breaking down muscle but the effect that cortisol has on fat is that it liberates fat from the periphery, so it liberates subcutaneous fat and it actually promotes the deposition of fat around the abdomen and the visceral organs.

So it's this idea of being skinny fat whereby someone has practically no muscle mass but they've got fat around their belly. This can actually be caused by chronic cardio exercise, going for mad amounts of jogging and running and all of this kind of stuff and generally I don't think it's very good for health.

Now I think that this differs between the different types of ethnicities. For instance, if you're speaking to an Ethiopian, the chances are they're going to be very well equipped to deal with that and still be in a healthy state and I think it has to do with their mitochondria, their ability to convert energy into ATP to be used and generally they have a much better capacity to do that than Caucasian people do or people from other areas of the world. It can be really quite problematic on a hormonal front in terms of improving health measures. Does that make sense?

Tiffany: Yeah. And it definitely points to the "more is not better".

Doug: As far as exercise goes?

Tiffany: Yeah. People think "If I exercise 60 minutes it's much better than exercising for 30 minutes" but actually you reach a plateau. After a certain amount of time you're just not going to burn anymore energy and that's just the way it is.

Doug: You're still burning the energy...

Tiffany: But it's not more beneficial I should say.

Doug: Right. Maybe this might explain partly what was going on with you Tiff and why you could no longer exercise to lose weight. The body adjusts. So if you start expending large amounts of energy by exercising, the body actually will defend how much - and Elliot was talking about this before too - there's a certain level that it's willing to burn and it actually adjusts by lowering the basal metabolic rate but also by burning less energy in other ordinary things.

Usually you're burning energy even while you're fidgeting or moving around, these kind of spontaneous physical activities that your body will do. Well what they've found is that people who actually do a lot of exercise at any given time while do less of these other things. Your body wants to conserve calories and will do it by lessening these unconscious movements and things like that and you'll actually be less active outside of that exercise time. People will be more likely to come home from the gym and just take a nap or lay on the couch and watch TV or something like that, whereas before they might have done stuff around the house, or cleaned or gone for a walk or whatever the case may be.

So it might just be that your body got to a place where it was used to being more sedentary outside of the exercise so that when you went back to exercising it was already like, "Well no, I'm not going to give up any energy here" or "the energy I give up here I will make up for in other ways."

Tiffany: Well I did a lot of exercise every day for years and then eventually I just started felling like crap, like achy when I would wake up in the morning and I was only in my 30s at that point. I was like, "I've got to stop." And I was really fearful that I would gain weight because I stopped going to the gym and I didn't. I lost weight. {laughter}

Elliot: No kidding.

Doug: There are all these ideas of burning calories and "Oh, I burned this many calories today so I'm at a net calorie deficit", but the fact of the matter is that exercise actually makes you hungry, or most people anyway.

Tiffany: That's for sure.

Doug: It's not necessarily everybody. Apparently there are people out there for whom exercise makes them less hungry. But a lot of people will actually be made more hungry by exercising. So they don't necessarily notice that they're eating more to make up for that calorie deficit, but they do. So it might have been that while exercising, you were making up for it and then when you stopped exercising there was nothing to make up for anymore so your body just adjusted and you lost weight.

Elliot: There's another thing. I don't know if there's any research on it. I haven't been able to find any or come across any, but another thing which would make sense - and I know that some proponents of this kind of idea do exist. This is the idea that if we look at fat tissue, typically it's the depot, or the storage site for toxic, fat-soluble substances. For instance, we come into contact with plastics and whatnot and these are really toxic and if the liver can't deal with that for whatever reason, then a safe place to put it is in the fat tissue. This is the same as mercury as well and other heavy metals. They get stored in the adipose. This is quite a safe way for the body to store it because it's not too metabolically active and there's not much circulation to that area so it's not likely to get into systemic circulation and then to the organs and cause serious damage.

The idea is that perhaps the body, if it determines that it can't detoxify various things and someone goes on a real intensive exercise regime with a crash diet, really low calorie, then they lose lots of weight but it gets to a point where they plateau and they can't lose anymore. I think it would make sense that if the body determines that the liver can't deal with the toxicity, it is going to select for more fat tissue. It's going to want to keep the fat, to keep the toxins stored away to protect it, to protect the rest of the body.

So this is why I think that any fat loss diet, or any weight loss diet needs to be so nutrient-dense. If someone comes to me and they want to lose weight, I would also try to support their liver with various liver-supporting nutrients because I think that when someone does lose weight, they are going to be releasing so much more toxicity into their system that they really need a way to get rid of that. The problem may present itself as if they do start releasing all of this stuff into the bloodstream and the liver can't deal with it, then that could lead to further things down the line. I think that may be a factor as well.

Doug: Well that's interesting because there was a study done out of Toronto at York University and what they found in it was that people who were exercising as much and eating the same amount of calories in the 1980s were actually heavier and maintaining a higher weight than they are today. So if you had a counterpart in the 1980s who was eating the same amount as you and exercising the same amount as you, they would actually be lighter or less fat than they are today.

So it's interesting because there was an article that we had on SOTT called Why We Have to Work Harder Today to Avoid Weight Gain Compared to 30 Years Ago. This doesn't come from the study, it's just the author speculating about it, but they were saying things like chemical exposure, altered gut environment, prescription antidepressant use, stress, sleep and light exposure, electromagnetic fields. These kinds of things might actually be influencing things in such a way that we can no longer lose weight as easily as we previously did. So it brought that to mind because you were talking about the toxicity there Elliot.

Erica: Elliot, I have a question for you. Would you recommend for people to do detoxification protocols like infrared sauna blankets or even doing sweating to clear those toxins from the body as a way to deal with that issue?

Elliot: Is that during weight loss?

Erica: Yeah, if somebody wanted to go on a weight loss regime so to speak, do you think that doing sauna blankets or even a sauna to stimulate sweating would help detoxify the system and then be able to deal with the issues that you just brought up?

Elliot: Yeah, totally. That's exactly what I'd recommend because you have to factor in that there is going to be so much of a burden. There have been cases where people have gone on crash diets, lost loads of weight and then suddenly been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia or something and I think that that is probably because of that sheer amount of toxicity that they are exposing their bodies to.

So during a weight loss protocol, I think definitely you would want to go hard on the infrared blankets and the Epsom salt baths. I always emphasize two to three Epsom salt baths every week but also maybe some liposomal glutathione with milk thistle and the various methylated B vitamins to really improve the methylation pathway and all of the other detoxification systems. I think that that would definitely help anyone who's trying to lose weight certainly.

Tiffany: So exercise is baloney,. {laughter} In some cases. I think it's all individual. I don't mean to be say it's all baloney. It depends.

Doug: I think it's the type of exercise.

Elliot: Yeah.

Doug: I think it's like Elliot was saying, that building muscle mass seems to be the key rather than focusing on calories. I think that's the baloney part, focusing on burning calories. They have shown that exercise is very beneficial for different things like insulin resistance and heart health. There's all kinds of things that they have shown that exercise is really beneficial for. I think the type of exercise is really where that comes into play. I think running marathons, getting on the treadmill all the time trying to count your calories and burn those off, that's the baloney part of it.

Tiffany: Yeah. But the unfortunate part is a lot of these newspaper stories that come out touting the latest fad or some benefit of exercise, they still seem to focus a lot on endurance and cardio exercise versus weight lifting. And if the main benefit is building the muscles so you can have that increase in mitochondria and increased insulin sensitivity, I think the emphasis really should be on weight lifting, not on being on the treadmill or the elliptical machine for 45 minutes a day.

Doug: I think that's directly related to the fact that people are still steeped in that calorie idea. They see exercise as being beneficial and because they're looking at it in such a simplistic manner, they're like, "Oh yeah, it's about burning calories". It is in a sense, but it's more about adjusting your basal metabolic rate more than anything else.

Elliot: I think it comes down to choosing your stressors as well. Going for a run or something, if that's something that you find enjoyment in, it promotes your psychological well-being and your emotional well-being and some people find that it's a really good way to de-stress, then I think that's fantastic. It's good for lots of other different things, but ultimately it's not going to effectively do the things that it's purported to do and I think the problem, like Doug said, is that it's all of the stuff that surrounds the idea of what it does. I think the thing that we have to also look at is the effects that it has on the joints and on the bones because if you look at the structure of the foot and the osteopathic medical model - I think chiropractors talk about this as well - the foot was really designed to operate on a terrain which is uneven. So that is the best way that the foot really functions and the foot ultimately influences the way that every other joint in the body and all of the other muscles are aligned.

So when we put on trainers and we're running on concrete, it inevitably is putting a lot of stress onto our ankles, our knees and our hips and things.

Tiffany: Ouch.

Elliot: I think the problem is that we are potentially doing a lot of damage when we go for these long runs and things with the shoes, the concrete and whatnot and I think these things are really overlooked. But when we look at something like insulin resistance or obesity, the old ideas were that you do your cardio exercise and this is going to help you lose weight. But when we actually look at what factors into weight loss or for fat loss particularly, we really have to look at the metabolic features of that and then look at the metabolic features of various types of exercise.

So like Tiff was just saying, it's about increasing the muscle mass and if you can effectively increase muscle mass to improve the amount of energy that you're expending {no audio}. Can you still hear me?

Tiffany: You kind of went out for a second.

Doug: You cut out for a second there.

Elliot: Yes. Sorry about that. Let's look at weight lifting for instance. Or let's look at how to increase your muscle mass. Well to increase muscle mass, you need to have energy. You need to have amino acids. You need to have glucose. This is how you build muscle. And how do you get those things into the muscle? Well the muscle needs to have very good insulin sensitivity because insulin is what transports glucose into muscles. So what is the best way to increase insulin sensitivity? It's to deplete that muscle of energy because if we look at what governs insulin sensitivity - there's these ideas floating around and I think they're really misunderstood - for those who don't know, insulin is the hormone which transports glucose into a cell for it to be used. Insulin resistance is correlated with obesity and whatnot and this is a big problem in today's society. The idea is that the cells become desensitized to insulin so insulin can no longer have an effect on the cells.

But now we know that that is not technically true. What it is, is that cells only accept energy when they need energy. What we see in obesity and diabetes, the cells effectively have too much energy. When a cell has too much energy it actually, through various mechanisms, declines the insulin. Insulin comes along and the cell's not desensitized to it. No, the cell says, "Okay, we know that you're here insulin and we know that there's glucose but we can't take anymore of it. We can't do anything with that glucose. We don't actually need you." That is what insulin resistance is.

So by putting the muscles under intense stress, for instance you're lifting a really heavy weight, what you do is you deplete all of the glucose in that cell and then you effectively trigger a message that says, "Okay, insulin, you can come along now and we need the glucose. We need that energy because we've been depleted of it." When you get the energy into the cell then you can activate all sorts of other mechanisms which effectively lower blood glucose, promote fat loss and increase muscle mass and the more muscle that you build, the more you deplete that muscle, the more blood glucose that you can sweep up from the blood.

If you look at the research, I know that that was a really long-winded explanation, but what I'm trying to say is that if you look at the research, hands down, the best exercise technique for weight loss and for type II diabetes and various other metabolic conditions is weight lifting. This is intense weight lifting. This is weight lifting to failure because of the mechanisms that have just been described. It's quite complex. Doug McGuff does a good job of explaining it in body by science and there's some really good papers on it, but ultimately all you need to understand is that if you could deplete your cells of energy then they are going to use energy faster and they are going to effectively increase the rate at which you burn fat.

Tiffany: So speaking of - go ahead Doug.

Doug: I was going to say do we want to play our clip?

Tiffany: Yes.

Doug: Yeah?

Tiffany: Yes.

Doug: Okay. Here we go.


Narrator: We have this idea that if we want to lose weight we join a gym on January 1st, we start working out regularly and eventually we slim down. Well here's some bad news.

Woman: I read more than 60 studies on this and it turns out exercise is actually pretty useless when it comes to weight loss."

Narrator: Dr. Kevin Hall at the National Institutes of Health has done some of the most important studies on exercise and weight loss.

Dr. Hall: We need to rebrand exercise. Exercise isn't a weight loss tool per se. It's excellent for health. It's probably the best single thing that you can do other than stopping smoking to improve your health but don't look at it as a weight loss tool.

Narrator: Exercise will definitely help you live a longer, happier life. It's just not the best way to lose weight and the reason has to do with how our bodies use energy.

Woman: You may not realize it but physical activity is actually a tiny component of your daily energy burn.

Narrator: There are three main ways our bodies burn calories.

Woman: These include your resting metabolism. So that's how much energy your body burns just for its basic functioning, just to keep you alive basically. The other part of energy expenditure is the thermic effect of food and that's just how much energy is required to break food down in your body. The third part of energy expenditure is physical activity.

Narrator: For most people physical activity, that's any movement you do, only accounts for about 10-30% of energy use.

Woman: So the vast majority of energy or calories you burn every day comes from your basal or resting metabolism over which you have very little control.

Narrator: While 100% of your calories in are up to you, only about 30% of your calories out are in your control. One study found that if a 200 pound man ran for an hour, four days a week for a month, he would lose about five pounds at most, assuming everything else stays the same. And everything else doesn't stay the same.

Woman: Researchers have found we make all kinds of behavioural and physiological adaptations when we start increasing the amount of exercise we're getting every day.

Narrator: For one thing, exercise tends to make people hungry.

Woman: And I'm sure you know the feeling. You go for a spinning class in the morning and then by the time you eat breakfast you may be so hungry you maybe double the size of the portion of oatmeal you'd normally eat.

Narrator: There's also evidence to suggest that some people simply slow down after a workout.

Woman: So if you went running in the morning, you might be less inclined to take the stairs at work.

Narrator: These are called compensatory behaviours. They're basically the various ways we unknowingly undermine our workouts.

Woman: Researchers have also discovered a phenomenon called metabolic compensation. If people start to slim down, their resting metabolism can slow down so the amount of energy you burn while at rest is lower. That means that this bar might shrink as you start to lose weight.

Narrator: There's still a lot of research to be done, but one study from 2012 is particularly interesting.

Woman: They went out into the middle of the savannah in Tanzania to measure the energy burn among a group of hunter gatherers called the Hadza.

Narrator: These are super active, lean hunter gatherers. They're not spending their days behind a computer at a desk.

Woman: And what they found was shocking.

"What we found is there was no difference at all. So even though the Hadza have a much more physically active lifestyle, they weren't burning any more calories every day than adults in the US and Europe."

Narrator: Somehow, the energy they used for physical activity was being offset or conserved elsewhere. So how did they stay slim? They don't overeat.

Woman: We can undo the calories that we burn off and exercise pretty quickly. It would take about an hour of running to burn off a Big Mac and fries. You have to spend about an hour dancing pretty vigorously to burn of three glasses of wine you might drink with dinner, an hour of cycling really intensely on exercise bikes, to burn off about two donuts.

Narrator: And that's why exercise is best seen as a healthy supplement for a strategy that's focused on food. But despite extremely high obesity rates in the US, government agencies continue to present exercise as a solution, as do companies with a real interest in making sure we keep eating and drinking their products.

Woman: Since the 1920s companies like Coca-Cola have been aligning themselves with the exercise message. The idea here is that you can drink all these extra bottles of soda as long as you work out. But as we're seeing, it doesn't work like that. Actually burning off those extra calories from a can of soda is really, really hard. We have an obesity problem in this country and we shouldn't treat low physical activity and eating too many calories as equally responsible for it. Public health policymakers should really prioritize improving our food environment to help people make healthier choices about what they eat.

Narrator: It's not impossible to lose weight through exercise. It's just a lot harder and we need to recognize how that works.

"If you do go to the gym and you burn all these calories, it takes you a long time to do so and if you put in a great amount of effort, you can erase all of that in five minutes of eating a slice of pizza. The relative magnitude is actually quite surprising and most people don't fully appreciate that."

Tiffany: That was a good summary of every point we made.

Doug: Yeah, we should have just played that from the get go and had a five minute show. {laughter}

Tiffany: No! So exercise is for building muscles and for other health benefits but if you want to lose weight you have focus on diet, either what you eat or what you don't eat and maybe the emphasis should be on what you don't eat because another good way to increase your insulin sensitivity is by fasting intermittently or in other ways.

Erica: Or also, as I was saying earlier, the portion size but also in Okinawa they practice what's called Hara Hachi Bu where you only eat until about 80% full instead of really going overboard until you're 100% full and bloated. So not eating as much.

Tiffany: This brings me to another question. I think the overeating plays a big part in it and the plethora of junk food that's widely and conveniently available because in the olden days - and I'm just talking about before the 1960s maybe - people did not exercise. They didn't lift weights and put on muscle mass so they could be more insulin sensitive. It's not like they were super buff. People think "Oh if I'm going to go to the gym and exercise and lift weights I want to really have some big flashy muscles" but people in the olden days didn't do all that exercise and they were still thinner and healthier.

So I guess it comes down mostly to the food. You can probably get away with not exercising at all as long as you don't make yourself metabolically deranged by eating a lot of crap.

Doug: Yeah. I think that's true. There was a doctor who works for the NHS, Aseem Malhotra. He was quoted as saying that exercise doesn't make one iota of difference when it comes to weight loss and type II diabetes, insulin sensitivity, that sort of thing. I think there's a lot to that. I don't think that exercise is useless because there are a lot of benefits to it and obviously movement is absolutely necessary. We need to move. But the idea that you can solve the problems caused by a bad diet through exercise is extremely misguided.

Tiffany: Yeah. And I think that exercise has a place, not necessarily in being significant in helping you lose weight, but maybe in maintaining the weight that you are satisfied with and you want to increase your muscle mass to make yourself more insulin sensitive and maybe cause some genetic changes in your muscles also. But if you want to affect major change in your physique, exercise is not going to get it.

But there was another article that we were reading for this show about mind over matter and how there are certain experiments that they ran with people and they had them just imagine exercising themselves. They put them in a fake cast so they couldn't really move their arms but they had them imagine working their arms and spent some time doing this every single day. At the end of the experiment the people who imagined exercising had muscular changes but the people who did not imagine exercising didn't have any. So you can even think about working out and you can gain some muscle. {laugher}

Erica: It'll be the new fitness trend.

Doug: Yeah, get totally buff just by sitting there.

Tiffany: The imaginative workout.

Doug: It's interesting. I don't know if they've actually done studies. I think they have, but there's a lot of anecdotal stuff too about it. A lot of athletes will be prescribed to think about their sport. One example I can think of is where there was a guy who was a coach for golfers and would have them improving their swing, not necessarily by getting out there and practicing over and over again, but actually thinking about it and picturing themselves hitting the ball exactly the way it needs to be hit and the perfect drive or whatever and that they would actually improve by doing that. So there's something to it. I really do think that there is something to it.

Now I don't know that you can necessarily just replace the actual practice or the actual exercise with thinking about it.

Tiffany: I think you would have to have the experience of exercising in order to better visualize it.

Doug: Yeah.

Tiffany: But speaking of exercising, I also wanted to see if we could talk about delayed onset muscle soreness, just briefly because I've had some pretty debilitating muscle soreness after working out, not just "Oh yeah, I feel like I did some bicep curls yesterday" but "Oh my god, I can't walk!" That to me is not natural but I read an article where it says that if you're sore after exercising it's okay to exercise more. But that kind of flies in the face of the whole exercising then rest and rebuild. So what do you guys think?

Erica: I'll share just a little bit. Teaching yoga and practicing myself and definitely have had sore muscles, from the research that I've done, especially with "stretching", that you acquire micro-tears in the muscles and that maybe the next day you don't do such an intense stretching regime, so something like restorative yoga where you are in positions for longer and you're resting and you're breathing and you are getting the fascia moving in a sense and also stimulating the lymphatic system as somebody said in our chat, but not overdoing it. You really see that in the yoga world with this intense core power or all these fitness-type yoga practices. I think that really takes away from a lot of the benefits of doing yoga. So having sore muscles, I've definitely felt like you, where you feel like you've gotten hit by a bus and I've also hurt myself and had sustained injuries for months at a time from overdoing it.

So I think with anything, especially in the practice of yoga or dance or Pilates or any of these workouts that are popular at gyms, it's good to have a balanced approach to it.

Doug: Yeah. I think it's dependent on the type of exercise that you're doing too. If somebody is doing bicep curls or something like that where they're isolating one muscle group and they're working that one to exhaustion or whatever, and then they have a lot of pain the next day or next couple of days, then going and doing more bicep curls maybe wouldn't be the best thing to do because they probably would benefit from resting and allowing that muscle to repair.

But I think if somebody's doing something that's more of functional movements where they're using multiple muscles and they get some soreness in a certain area, I think to exercise in that case - I used to do CrossFit and they always said you don't have to have a rest day every single time you do a workout. You can workout four times a week if you want to. I found that to be the case. It was the case where I could go four times a week and I was okay. I wasn't really killing myself and I think that's because they were more functional movements where you're doing movements that aren't isolating particular muscle groups. It's a more holistic workout maybe.

Tiffany: I think some of that too depends on diet because I've noticed the higher in carbs my diet is and if I try to lift really heavy weights, I will get much more sore than if I'm on low to no carbs.

Doug: I could see that.

Tiffany: If I'm eating too many carbs, my muscles are still full of - I don't know. I can't figure out why.

Doug: Well it might just be the fact that using carbohydrate metabolism is more inflammatory in general.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Doug: So whenever you're injuring the muscle, which you do any time you're building it, by eating an inflammatory diet or a more inflammatory diet, you're going to feel it more. That's just speculation on my part, but that could be.

Erica: I definitely experience that with eating too many carbs and joint pain, knees, big toe even.

Tiffany: The gout.

Erica: The gout. {laughter}

Doug: The gout?

Erica: Even people who are older who have chronic arthritis, I have a lot of clients like that who do yoga, who have chronic arthritis, "Oh, I've been drinking a lot of wine. I've been eating a lot of sugar", so I do think that that has an effect on people, whether or not they're aware of it.

Doug: Yeah, I think that's the case for sure.

Tiffany: Well it seems like we've exhausted this topic. We do have a pet health segment. Let's see. What is this pet health segment about? I guess we'll see. It'll be a surprise.

Doug: Surprise.

Tiffany: The animal brain.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the pet health segment of the Health and Wellness Show. Many of you probably heard that once human brains were larger and that they have been shrinking throughout human history and apparently animal brains have been shrinking too. Before you make any assumptions regarding the possible reasons, listen to the following recording about the recent research into the matter as its findings may surprise you. Here it is.


Emily: Hi, this is Emily from Minute Earth. Domestication has puppified dogs, fluffified sheep and spotified horses. But there's a less obvious physical change that virtually all domesticated animals share, shrunken brains. Duck brains have shrunk by about 15%, cat brains by 30% and pig brains by a whopping 35%. We've even found smaller brains in farmed trout which is weird because in general, the size of animals' brains and the size of their bodies is super tightly linked. Mites have smaller brains than ants which have smaller brain than mice which have smaller brains than elephants, and so on.

The same relationship exists for individuals within species. So for example, small wolves have smaller brains than big wolves and small dogs have smaller brains than big dogs. But when you compare wolves and dogs, between individuals of the same size, the wolves have bigger brains, no matter what that body size is. What's more, across different domesticated animals, a disproportionate amount of the shrinkage happened in the part of the brain that monitor information from the outside world and tell animals when and how to freak out, sort of like the brain's panic button.

We know that in general animals with bigger panic buttons have a more sensitive fight or flight response and animals with smaller panic buttons are naturally tamer. So those are the ones we probably would have tried to domesticate and by breeding the tamest animals with each other, we shrunk their panic buttons, and therefore their brains, even further.

In short, domesticated animals have formed long-term partnerships with humanity by literally losing their minds.

Doug: There's some shrunken-brained goats.

Tiffany: You took the words right out of my mouth. Okay, I guess that's our show for today and I hope we didn't discourage anyone from exercising and by exercising we mean lifting weights. So continue to exercise. If you want to jog every once in a while or take a walk or do something, it's best to do it...

Doug: Run a marathon.

Tiffany: Yeah, it's best to do it in nature. Just consider it a nice, pleasurable activity but it's not necessarily exercise.

Erica: It's good for your brain though.

Tiffany: Yeah. You can improve your mood and get some stronger bones when you lift weights. You'll be more flexible perhaps. You'll improve your insulin sensitivity. You'll change the functioning of your genes. So exercising is good for you. So I guess we will see you guys next week for another show that is yet to be named. You can check out the Truth Perspective on Saturday and NewsReal on Sunday. So thanks for listening. Thanks to all the chatters and we'll see you next time.

All: Good-byes.