Millions of people wasting time trying to get fit?

Are many of us wasting our time with efforts to get in shape?

An article in the New Zealand Herald yesterday certainly suggests this is the case. The article, which reports on a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, states, “Millions of people who strive to keep fit by jogging, swimming or going to the gym are wasting their time.”

The authors of the study referred to by the New Zealand Herald, Professor James Timmons and Professor Claude Bouchard, investigated the effect of endurance training on molecular capacity and found that around 20% of subjects failed to improve aerobic capacity with intense endurance training, while around 30% did not enhance their insulin sensitivity.

But does this mean we are wasting our time trying to get fit?

We contacted the lead author of the paper, Professor Jamie Timmons, from the University of London, to his views on media coverage of his research. He responded,

“We are not agreeing with the headlines that are being used. Most articles then go on to quote us accurately though – if we can produce reliable tests, then we can provide better advice.”

He went on to comment, “We are definitely saying that there is potential for genetic testing to predict the best combination of diet, exercise and pharmacology for different people.”

John Tulloch, spokesperson for Sport & Recreation New Zealand (SPARC) also sent us his comments,

“The focus of this research is very narrow and we should be careful not to draw such wide conclusions. Aerobic fitness is only one aspect of the many benefits of physical activity. Many people find activity to be fun and sociable, for example many activities involve engagement with the community and local sports clubs, and provide the opportunity to enjoy the great New Zealand outdoors.

“The Active New Zealand survey 2007-08 showed that 80% of adult New Zealanders were involved in some sort of active sport and recreation activity. Of those surveyed, almost 50% achieved the recommendation of at least 30 minutes of activity five times a week, and a further 39% recorded some activity. Just 13% were inactive.

“Activity is also important for children, and SPARC are encouraging pre-school children to engage in active movement, and primary and secondary schools to promote activity to children, which will motivate them to stay active as adults.

“Improved health is one obvious by-product of increased activity, but we shouldn’t forget the many other benefits and people certainly shouldn’t abandon physical activity on the basis of this single narrow study.”

Further Information

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Notes to Editors

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