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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 11, 2008

New Study: Exercise is Good and Lowers Obesity

By Mark Sisson
27 Comments

double helix magnifiedIn a new study out of the Archives of Internal Medicine investigators discovered that even people with extra copies of the “fat mass and obesity” genes called FTO did NOT get fatter if they were active throughout the day. In other words, a so-called genetic predisposition to obesity was effectively avoided when the owners of the so-called defective genes were active four to five hours a day doing low-level aerobic stuff. And it didn’t have to be much: brisk walking, housecleaning and gardening were sufficient. Just like Grok did in the original Primal Blueprint. 900 calories day of this was plenty.

I haven’t seen the whole study – just an abstract, but a quote from one of the authors interviewed on ScienceDaily.com cracked me up when he said, “Our study shows that a high level of physical activity can ‘level the playing field,’ equalizing the risk of obesity between those who have copies of the FTO gene variant and those who don’t.” Which basically means that even if you are predisposed to being obese, if you move around a lot all the time you won’t be quite so predisposed. They paid how much to find this out?

Interestingly, the authors also opined that obesity within the Amish (and the US in general) was related to lack of activity and a high-fat diet. There was no recognition that the Amish have a predominantly grain-based diet and that much of the obesity that does occur within the non-active Amish was likely due to the high carbs. Sufficient activity can prevent weight gains even in the face of a high carb diet (I ate 1,000 grams a day when I ran and I stayed skinny). We know from our basic MDA science that activity helps increase insulin sensitivity (a good thing) even when the diet is high in carbs.

For those who saw my FOX News piece earlier this week wherein I said that 80 percent of your fat loss results will come from how you eat, note that I said you still have to exercise and that low-level aerobic work was better than “chronic cardio.” Also note that I was discussing how to lose fat once you have gained it. If you are Amish and are active all your life, it may happen – even if you have the FTO gene – that you never accumulate much fat because you manage your insulin production and burn off both stored glycogen and fats through your daily low-level activity.

But for me, the real take home message is once again that no matter how “doomed” you may feel because of a family history of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis or cancer, you have the absolute ability to determine whether or not those genes get turned on or off or the degree to which they get expressed or even the degree to which other genes interfere with them. It’s all about the signals. And the irony is that all the lifestyle behaviors in the Primal Blueprint will provide signals that favor health over sickness whether you have those “defective” genes or not. Having those genes simply raises a red flag for you that says that you – more than most – need to pay strict attention to eating and moving Primally. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the rest of us are immune either. Genes only turn on or off based on the signals you give them. Bottom line: everyone benefits from living Primally.

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Gene Expression

Control Your Lifestyle, Control Your Genes

The Context of Calories

TAGS:  body fat

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27 Comments on "New Study: Exercise is Good and Lowers Obesity"

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Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 14 days ago

Wow… just wow. Who pays for these “Studies”?

Chris - Zen to Fitness
8 years 14 days ago

The closing lines in this article are great, everyone would benefit from living the Primal Lifestyle….. Manipulating our genes to benefit us through following a good lifestyle is the best thing we can do.

Ryan Denner
8 years 14 days ago

groundbreaking…

Now where’s my salad?

Bradford
Bradford
8 years 14 days ago
I wouldn’t categorize this into the “oh duh” studies. This is actually pretty frickin’ revelatory. The article doesn’t say that exercise is good and lowers obesity, it says that longer periods of physical activity (Grok hiking around all day) actually suppresses the gene causing a predisposition of obesity. Understanding that exercise burns calories and makes you thinner isn’t anything new, but understanding how to live to improve your genetic expression, that’s something special. It’s like the difference between washing your face every day to get rid of pimples that keep coming back vs. learning lifestyle habits that prevent the acne… Read more »
Josh Xiong
8 years 14 days ago

Hey Mark,

I just had a quick question: how do I build muscle on a low-carb, primal blueprint diet? I’ve heard many people say I should eat a high carb post-workout meal because my muscles are starved of glycogen – is this true?

Thanks,

Joshua Xiong.

Aaron
8 years 14 days ago

Here is a good post to answer your questions, Joshua:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/guest-post-building-muscle-101-master-the-basics/

Jen C.
Jen C.
8 years 14 days ago

I think it is of the utmost importance for people to understand that obesity is something that can be overcome even if everyone in your family has yet to defeat it. I think it is also important to note that a lot of weight loss is mental. Getting over mental blocks and coming to grips with the idea that anything can be overcome is important!

trackback
8 years 14 days ago

[…] to Kevin on the first video FitCast), genetics (it’s not your fault if you don’t exercise), magic “Gandhi” pills (read: moral performance enhancers), take your Blackberry into […]

DR
8 years 14 days ago

You would think that this study is good news, but not everyone sees it that way.

I blogged on this subject as well and was deluged with nasty comments from the Fat Acceptance crowd. It seems like they see this study as some sort of prejudiced attack on overweight people.

It’s amazing to see how differently people can interpret the same info.

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 14 days ago

Of course they did DR. It’s amazing how many people want an excuse. Seems like now a day, people would prefer not to have any responsibility… even for themselves! If its not your fault, you don’t have to fix it right?

Tom Parker
8 years 14 days ago

Totally agree with Son of Grok on this one. So many people have to blame someone for their own problems. Although this scientific study’s findings are rather obvious at least it removes some of the excuses people once used.

Huckleberry
8 years 14 days ago

There’s a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this month that has a different take on exercise and obesity, although it’s not focused on a specific population like this study is. From the abstract: “BMI, FM [fat mass], and WC [waist circumference] may predict sedentary time, but our results do not suggest that sedentary time predicts future obesity.” http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/88/3/612

Obviously being active and exercising are important for a variety of reasons, but the direct, causal relationship between activity level and weight gain seems unfounded in most situations.

Debs
Food Is Love

Mark Sisson
8 years 14 days ago
Thanks for the link Debs. The take-home message there is that you might just be lucky enough to be sedentary and still not become obese (maybe skinnyfat, though). Sedentarianism isn’t necessarily predictive of obesity (and maybe it’s also what you do and don’t eat in that case). But pretty much anyone who exercises a fair amount from an early age and throughout life will have a higher liklihood of NOT getting obese, regardless of genetics (unless they are SO bad on diet that it overwhelms). So why not just recommend that everyone engage in daily activity all their lives and… Read more »
MzEllen
8 years 13 days ago

Here’s my frustration…

I appear to have a damaged endocrine system (4 years on Clomid – we’re only supposed to max out at 1 year) and the symptoms of a goofy thyroid (but my blood test is in the “normal” range so doctors won’t even see me).

I weigh a little over 200, rode my bike 105 miles since Sunday AND walked my 10,000 pedometer steps AND maxed out at about 100 grams of carb a day (love those fruits, berries and summer squash) I lost 1/2 pound this week.

Suggestions?

Son of Grok
Son of Grok
8 years 13 days ago

MzEllen,

Disclaimer: I am no Doctor or Expert.

That being said, it sounds like you are focusing heavily on cardio! You might greatly benefit from some high intensity resistance training a couple times a week. Grok didn’t just walk a lot, he had to lift things, move things, climb trees and mountains and fend off beasts and transport spoils!

Robert M.
Robert M.
8 years 13 days ago
MzEllen: The paleo-approach has three basic legs if you will: 1.) High-intensity exercise designed to increase lean muscle mass and bone density, which then increases your basal metabolic rate. Just try and burn 2000 kcal a day through exercise. Not gunna happen ( at least on a sustainable basis). 2.) Eating a high-fat diet so that your appetite is sated, thereby avoiding the insulin response that leads to snacking and all sorts of other bad habits. Paleo does not violate the laws of thermodynamics — you still must burn what you eat or store it as fat! It’s just designed… Read more »
Crystal
Crystal
8 years 13 days ago

MzEllen- Almost everyone is in range who is hypoT. Your Ft3 and Ft4 should be at the top of the range with no symptoms. Your morning basal temperature should be around 98.2 and 98.6 in the afternoon. If it’s not, you’re under-treated. TSH is a pretty poor test. If your doc. won’t help you, find a new one. Try a D.O. Endo’s are truely lost!!

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[…] New Study: Exercise is Good and Lowers Obesity […]

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[…] time we workout we release a surge of feel good chemicals and hormones which will make you feel great all day. […]

MzEllen
8 years 11 days ago

Thanks for your answers…tomorrow I’m starting with dumbbells…

Crystal, my basal temp varies between 97.0 and 97.2.

Son of Grok…yes, right now I’m focusing a lot on cardio…actually on cycling. My goal is to ride 112 miles over 2 days next month…the reward to be a new Specialized Vita Sport from my Sweetie.

😉

warren
warren
8 years 11 days ago

As for the Amish I believe they also eat a LOT of sugar. I live not far from “dutch country” and sooo many of the products the amish bring to market to sell are loaded with sugar, even thier pickles. That said the younger Amish usually appear to be in excellent shape. Perhaps when they get older and slow down a bit the lifetime carb binge rapidly catches up.

new_me
new_me
8 years 10 days ago
I come from a family with many obese people. I was also obese. The sad state of my close relatives’ health is what inspired (or scared) me into changing. Now, I am living proof that with some determination and support and good old fashioned hard work and primal nutrition that obesity can be overcome. I get so many comments and questions in regards to my body transformation. As soon as I say that I “work hard and eat properly” most people grunt and sigh and give up hope right there. Perhaps the “genetic” link is one of irresponsibility and laziness?… Read more »
susan
8 years 6 days ago

This just goes to show that sometimes actions can counteract genetics. There is no excuse not to exercise, not even obesity!

I have found that taking vitamins and supplements are an important part of overall health.

Rowena
8 years 44 minutes ago

I agree. Regardless of our predisposition to obesity (and some genes must tilt in this direction) we know that if our national eating and exercise habits hadn’t been so appalling, the level of obesity and related disease wouldn’t be like it is. No study is required to understand this better. What is more important is the need to take action for our own benefit and to stop our heath system from imploding!

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[…] is only watching what you eat and that you can get by without exercise…think again. Click Here for another blog entry by Mark that discusses the need to eat well (aka Paleo) AND exercise (aka […]

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[…] Mark’s Daily Apple analyzed a study on how exercising can lower the occurrence of obesity. […]

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[…] No-Duh Study: Exercise is Good and Lowers Obesity […]

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