Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blanket Statements = Ignorance

Today was the second time that someone said "I know for a fact that walking x distance on a treadmill burns x calories" and I am completely sick of this stupid statement.  People who make claims like this and judge everything else pertaining to caloric burn against this stupid statement are only flagrantly flaunting their ignorance to how calorie burning works.

So ... to today's comment poster who said precisely this: "I know that walking a mile on a treadmill burns 200 calories" this mid-day post is for you.  You know that do you?  You know that because you've walked a mile on a treadmill and that's how many calories your treadmill told you that you burned right?  Well here is the problem with trying to use that information to create a blanket statement and believing it applies to everyone.

1) How fast were you walking?  At a nice leisurely pace of 2 miles per hour you would complete the mile in 20 minutes.  At my weight (269.5 lbs) that would burn 101 calories per mile.  At 3.5 miles per hour you would complete the mile in approx. 17 minutes and 15 seconds which comes out to 132.56 calories per mile.  Any faster than 3.5 mph is unlikely to still be walking so ... how exactly did you manage 200 calories in 1 mile?  Keep reading.

2) How much do you weigh?  Have you ever tried to climb a flight of stairs carrying a 100 lb bag of dog food or groceries, or perhaps giving someone a piggy back ride?  At what point do people forget that added weight leads to higher exertion and higher exertion means higher caloric burn to perform the same exercises.  A skinny girl and a fat girl can walk the same route to school every day at the same speed and the fat girl will burn more calories doing it.  Why?  Because she's carrying extra weight.  If the principle of added weight to perform tasks were not a factor in weight management trainers wouldn't use weight belts and bar-bells.  Yes, they use them to build muscle but it is simultaneous with burning calories.

I fail to understand the mental concept behind "everyone needs to do x to burn one calorie".  How exactly do these people think calories work?  Are they like some kind of magical point system like Weight Watchers or something?  No ... BREATHING burns calories.  Doing your hair burns calories.  Wiping you ass burns calories.

Here is another absurd statement: "If these activities burned calories no one would ever get fat" ... and if they didn't no one would ever be thin.  We require calories to live, we must eat them.  On average a healthy person probably eats around 2,000 calories a day.  Now if walking a mile on a treadmill is the ONLY way to burn calories ... where do the other 1,800 calories go?  Don't tell me that our bodies use them to function because then you just might sound like you actually agree with me!  You can't claim that breathing, sleeping, and taking a crap burns calories but playing with your dog, chopping veggies in your kitchen, or crocheting doesn't.  Are you moving in any way during those last three activities?  Are you using muscles?  Because if you are you're burning calories and if you're not you should donate yourself to science so professionals can figure out what makes you different from the rest of us.

Fat people don't get fat because they only burn calories when they exercise, they get fat because they eat more calories than they burn.  I weight 269.5 lbs and lead a sedentary lifestyle where I am in front of a computer most of the day.  By estimation my body burns approx 2,300 calories per day just performing normal bodily and daily functions like getting out of bed, putting clothes on, brushing my hair, walking to the bathroom etc.  So how did I get fat you ask?  Because before actually making an effort to lose weight I was eating considerably more than that per day.  I was drinking almost 1,000 calories per day in soda alone!  I was waking up and eating leftover spaghetti, pie, or donuts for breakfast, then having a cheeseburger (1,000 calories EACH) for lunch and another one for dinner ... or worse, going to a buffet and eating until I felt like I was going to throw up.  And when it was all said and done I usually finished off the evening with some kind of dessert or snack.

It makes perfect sense and don't kid yourself.  We didn't get fat because we're not exercising enough ... at least that's not the only reason.  We got fat because we were eating more calories than we were burning ... plain and simple.

(This was just a much needed rant.  My real post will appear later after my caloric in's and out's are totaled for the day).


  1. LMAO! :D
    Great post!

    To follow-up your ending... not only is it true that overweight-people aren't overweight from a lack of exercise, but the corollary to that is that you *CAN NOT* out-exercise an unrestricted eating plan.

    That is to say that the argument "oh I can eat that and just work it off!" is a horrid plan. Don't believe me??? Ask yourself how long it takes to eat a candy bar and how many calories are in that candy bar (about 2 minutes and about 250 calories) -- now consider how long you'd have to exercise to burn those calories (somewhere between 20-25 minutes jogging for a 200lb. person). That's about a 10:1 ratio -- meaning, you can't out-exercise a bad diet.

    Why is that important?

    Because it suggests that overweight people are not overweight from a lack of exercise -- they are overweight first and foremost by a lack of a proper diet. In the caloric-battle between food and exercise, food wins by a factor of 10!

    We all are guilty of it, of course, I'm not judging -- but no one should kid themselves that they can *actually* make poor food choices and just counteract them with exercise. Ain't gonna happen.

  2. what about the incline on the treadmill?

    (ok, I really don't care about the incline)

    I totally agree with you

  3. huh ... actually incline might explain those extra 50 or so calories that I couldn't figure out. I know it was mostly a joke but you're absolutely right, just one more major factor to be considered.

    I plan on walking on the beach (for the first time in my life) this weekend and I hear walking in sand is a real bitch and a half so I'm quite looking forward to it. :)

  4. I have a treadmill that is either set at 10% or 20% incline. There is NO walking on a flat surface with this treadmill and it is suppose to burn double the calories and let me tell you 10 minutes into it I am drenched! So it is burning some serious calories I don't know how many nor do I care. Just the huffing and puffing and sweating tell me everything I need to know.

  5. There are a lot of factors that go into determining how many calories you burn in a mile.. idk how he burned 200 just walking? Super steep incline? But for me, jogging one mile burns 100 calories (according to my treadmill - that's at a 0% incline at 5.3 mph), and jogging burns approx 30% more calories than walking. So perhaps that person was very heavy, walking at a steep incline... that's possible.

  6. We had these treadmill's when I had a gym membership (someone else was paying for it) that would switch up the incline depending on the famous walk or hike you were taking. You could select routes from famous locations like San Francisco or New York and the treadmill would auto-adjust incline to match the terrain of the location you were "walking in". So it would go up and down just like a real street would in Frisco. They were pretty spiffy! The stationary bikes there did the same thing with resistance on the pedals.