Exercise A Waste of Time?

Did I get your attention? Well that was my intention. It was also the intention of other writers whose headlines read:

Millions of people ‘waste their time by jogging

Study Finds 1 in 5 People Unable to Benefit From Exercise

Aerobic exercise waste of time for diabetes prevention

Aerobic exercise ‘a waste of time’

Each of these articles was reporting on a study presented in the Journal of Applied Physiology. One of the authors of this study, Professor James A Timmons, of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London, concluded after testing about 500 subjects, that 20% of the participants in the studies showed negligible improvement in their aerobic capacity after being subject to a controlled exercise regime.

Research has shown the connection between the body’s ability to take up and use oxygen with lower risks of disease and premature death and thus exercise has been prescribed as a preventative measure. But one problem is that some people do not seem to have the same capacity to benefit from exercise. Thus Timmons and his colleagues set out to see why. Using muscle tissue samples they were able to find a correlation between a person’s genes and their response to exercise.

So does this study prove that exercise is a waste of time? Not at all. And it wasn’t really the point of the study, despite the misleading headlines that reported on it. Some of the headlines are reminiscent of the Time Magazine article “Why Exercise Won’t Make you Thin”, which has since been debunked.

What the authors of this study were trying to do was to try and identify some genetic markers that would indicate what kind of exercise people respond better to.

“It might one day be possible to customize prescriptions of physical exercise for optimal health effects,” says associate professor Carl Johan Sundberg, who led one of the three studies that make up the study. “For some people weight training might be better, while others might benefit more from endurance exercise.” He adds that “it is possible that those persons that do not respond with a performance increase could very well improve their blood pressure, blood lipids and glucose metabolism which would help prevent cardiovascular disease”. Those analyses were not part of this study, however.

So don’t skip your next spin class or run. Most likely you are among the 80% of people that benefit greatly from aerobic exercise. And if you’re not, chances are you are reaping other benefits that are good for your heart, brain and waistline.

Those misleading headlines need to be re-written:

Millions of People Benefit From Jogging

Study Finds 8 out of 10 Benefit From Exercise

Aerobic Exercise Helpful in Diabetes Prevention


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