Why do you exercise? If you’re an American, there’s a 35% chance that you exercise to lose weight. Why? Because that’s the number of people in this country that are considered obese. That’s nearly 125 million people. Quite obviously, something is wrong. In fact, 3 in 4 men are considered “overweight.” With that in mind it really should come as no surprise the overwhelming majority of gym goers, exercisers and health nuts are dedicated to shedding the pounds. But health and fitness aren’t exactly the same thing. When you think of fitness what do you think of?
- Endurance and being able to run long distances
- Being strong
- Athletic ability
But when you go to your doctor, do they ask you what your best mile time is? Do they inquire about your best deadlift? No, they look at basic things like:
- Body Weight
- Pulse Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Blood Oxygen Saturation
- Core Temperature
More in depth, but still routine diagnostics would include blood panels, which look at the following:
- Complete Blood Count
- Hemoglobin Levels
- Electrolyte and fluid balance
- Kidney and Liver Function
Now what is the one difference between body weight and the other 10 items on the list? How much body fat you have is the only thing plainly visible without special diagnostic equipment. Why does it matter? Because if body weight alone were the only important factor in your health, doctors wouldn’t even bother with the other stuff. But they do, because all of those other health indicators are just as important, if not more important than your body weight alone.
Where there is Smoke there is Fire
Now before you cancel your gym membership, and decide to eat a family sized bag of Doritos for dinner, let us remember almost all those health markers above are related. That means if you are overweight, you are also likely to have high blood pressure, or if you have poor liver function, you’re likely to have high glucose levels. But, as your general fitness improves, so does your overall health. That means, if you are overweight and have high blood pressure, exercise can help to mitigate the high blood pressure, even if you don’t have a significant reduction in body weight. Why? Because your body really likes homeostasis. That’s right, your body is naturally as afraid of change as you are. It doesn’t like to gain weight, and it doesn’t like to lose weight either. So once you’ve gained weight, it can be difficult to get it off. Your body weight is controlled by your metabolism, which is a result of calorie balance mixed with hormonal processes. It’s a complex system that science hasn’t quite completely figured out yet. But getting stronger is something that we understand almost completely, and that would include the strength of your heart. As you exercise your heart gets stronger, your circulation improves, and your body utilizes sugars and glycogen more efficiently. Arterial pathways always grow. This leads to better blood pressure, resting heart rate, blood glucose levels, and cholesterol levels. But if you haven’t addressed the calorie balance issue, you may not have lost any weight. In fact, your body weight may have increased due to an increase in muscle tissue. And as you can see, acording to the World Health Organization, health has a lot more to do with your physical state. In fact, the fitness community has a large contingent of people suffering from severe body dysmorphia. That would exclude them from being healthy from a mental and social well-being standpoint.
Judging a Book By Its Cover
Although unfortunate, the fitness industry is unsurprisingly rife with elitism. The target of the condescension? The overweight, as they are the easiest to pick out of a crowd. As mentioned in
One of these guys is considered the best Weightlifter of the modern era. The other is a picture I found when I typed “six pack abs” into google.
previous articles, this condescension is usually justified by complaints about how obese people drive up healthcare costs because they need so much medical care. The truth is, I’ve known people who were “normal weight” or even “shredded” and had high blood pressure, and even took medication for it. “Well it’s hereditary,” is the common excuse, and it’s a legitimate one, but yet that never seems to be a reasonable answer to why someone may have a bit of extra body fat. If we accept that having high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, cancer, flexibility, endurance, strength, blonde hair, blue eyes, etc… are all genetic factors, why can’t the amount of body fat you carry be on that list?
Check out this video of Kate Upton eating a doughnut while working out. What do you think the response would be if an overweight person posted a video of the same thing? I’m guessing they’d get roasted.
Why it Matters
If we truly want our friends, family, neighbors, community, and country to be healthier, we need to encourage people to live healthy lifestyles. Instilling fear into would be gym goes is counterproductive to that goal. I’ve been working out in gyms for 20 years. I even started in a hardcore, dungeon-style Powerlifting gym when I was 12 years old, and even I feel a twinge of anxiety when I walk through the door of a gym I’ve never been to. You don’t know the people, the equipment, where everything you need is located, and you don’t want to feel stupid by walking around aimlessly looking for something. How do you think someone who is walking into a gym for the first time in their life will feel? Especially when they think that everyone in the gym will be in better shape than they are. That’s why fitness programs that prioritize community are so commercially successful (Bootcamps, CrossFit, etc…).
I’m very proud of the community we’ve built at Arkitect, and it’s always amazing to see a wide variety of clients with various goals training along side one another. The gym is really no different than any other group environment…the success of those around you will lead to your success and vice versa. And I think that’s a big reason why our committed clients get the amazing results they do, no matter where they’re starting from.