Having a hard time getting motivated to exercise? Good news! A new study has found that a sedentary lifestyle will have less effect on overall weight loss or gain than the foods you eat. So plop back down on your couch and watch another episode of "Dance Moms," but just make sure you munch on an apple instead of that bag of Cheetos.
OK, I'm being a little sarcastic here. Common sense says that exercise is just as much a part of a healthy lifestyle as a wholesome diet. But I wasn't kidding about the study, which was published today in the journal PLoS ONE.
According to the study, physically active hunter-gatherers don't necessarily burn more calories than sedentary Westerners. Led by anthropologist Herman Pontzer of Hunter College in New York, researchers visited Tanzania where the Hadza tribe live as traditional "hunter-gatherers," foraging in the forest for food and hunting on foot with bows. There are 1,500 people in the Hazda tribe living without electricity on a diet comprised of wild foods such as honey, baobab fruit and meat.
The researchers initially hypothesized that members of the Hadza tribe, with their active daily lifestyle, would expend a lot more energy than typical Americans. Hazda women walk an average of 3.6 miles a day while men put in at least 7 miles of walking daily.
But the researchers found that the Hadza members didn't burn more energy than Western men and women. "They are able to maintain a more active lifestyle and use the same number of calories," Pontzer said.
In both Hadza and Western communities, the research concluded that there was actually no correlation between physical activity and body fat. The implication then is that it's the foods we eat, and not necessarily the energy we expend, that affects body fat.
Does that mean you should skip that trip to the gym and park your rear on the couch? I wouldn't — if for no other reason than daily exercise keeps my wheels — both mentally and physically — turning. Body fat aside, it always feels better after a walk, or a bike ride, or a swim than it does after a morning spent in front of the tube.
But maybe the next time I decide to sleep in, I won't feel so guilty about it. I'll just make sure that I spend the rest of my day foraging for honey and berries to make up for it!
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