Living ~400lbs

… and believe me I am still alive

The Fitness Question

Suppose you exercised three times a week. Suppose you got stronger.  Suppose your body were stronger and happier, you could lift more, walk further & faster, swim more.  Suppose you had less back or shoulder or knee pain. Suppose you were more relaxed, slept better, and got sick less.  Suppose all those things…but suppose you didn’t lose weight.

Would it be worth it to you to exercise if you didn’t lose weight?  If the only benefits you reaped would be the benefits of physical activity?


47 responses to “The Fitness Question”

  1. Frankly, weight loss is the least of my concerns. Having the ability to be active is my only concern.

  2. That’s the reason I work out, to increase stamina and strength and flexibility. I know from long experience that when I work out I don’t lose weight– rather, I gain it because muscle is heavier than fat. But that’s not why I exercise. It’s taken me years to get to this point, and I still struggle sometimes with not SEEING changes that I FEEL (ie, I feel fitter, why aren’t I thinner? That’s the measurement of health/fitness, right? RIGHT?), but I am happier and healthier mentally and physically. 90% of the time I don’t care that I’m not magically melting the pounds away.

  3. Absolutely. That’s why I take long walks, take a break from the internet to do wall pushups (no room to do them on the floor), and use my Le Creuset soup pot as often as possible. What? Cast iron cookware is really, really heavy, so it’s great exercise!

    Feeling good is its own reward. What dress size I wear is a completely different matter.

  4. I’ve hurt my back a few times, and that has taught me fitness is worthwhile purely for the purpose of preventing future back injuries. Everything else good that happens is just a bonus.

    1. Yes. Amazing how back/core exercises prevent back strain for me.

      1. I could not agree more. I used to be a gymnast! Hurt my back, and no more gymnastics for me. It took a few Years! to feel somewhat ok again. Then a friend dragged my off to the gym, and it took what.. a couple of weeks and my back was back to “normal” again.
        I still get pain in my back now and then, but nothing close to what I had for a couple of years after my accident. As long as i do 30 minutes in the gym once a week i am never in any pain at all. Compared to me not going to the gym at all and complaining every evening about back pains(still need to do more core workout tho :)

        Great article about a great subject.

        Lean man – lean body mass

  5. I think a lot of people give up on exercise because it isn’t a magic bullet for weight loss, particularly if you don’t do it to extreme levels. I’ve fought with myself for years about this. I feel better when I do it but I don’t lose weight, so the old conditioning tends to tell me that it’s not working, so what’s the sense.

    1. We’re trained to believe that exercise will cause weight loss. When it doesn’t we assume we’re doing something wrong.

      As Travis Saunders argued, people would probably be healthier if they weren’t as focused on weight loss.

  6. Activity is key. If I don’t stay active, i’ll lose the ability to walk entirely. I’ve already lost the ability to run just from accumulated joint damage over the last 16 years. I measure my success in distance walked, not weight lost. I’m up to 4 miles without knee braces and at about 5 with. My measurements are a bit iffy, but it’s not like i’m training for time or distance. yet. Someday i’ll be that person walking a marathon. It won’t be for years, but I’ll get there.

  7. It would be more than worth it to me. Then again weight loss is the least of my concerns when it comes to exercise…at least now. Feeling better is more important to me than “looking better”, whatever “better” is in terms of appearance.

  8. That pretty much describes why I work out.

  9. For sure, that’s why I *started* exercising. Learning to treat weight change as an incidental side effect was crucial for me. Discovering the joy of being (almost) pain-free and the easing of fatigue and depression were the prime motivators for me. It’s a hard association to challenge in others, though, especially young women. Through my practice I am trying to inspire people to exercise for the health benefits and for the pure enjoyment of it, not to see it as a chore with a supposed ‘pay off’.

  10. Sigh. I WISH I could get into exercise for its health benefits, but years of diet rhetoric have made me loathe it. It’s just so wrapped up in shame and punishment for me that I’m not sure how to enjoy it…and it certainly doesn’t help that I just don’t LIKE sweating and being out of breath! Even walking around the block freaks me out these days. In typical bad fatty fashion, I’ve just never been able to maintain an exercise routine. Here’s hoping I’ll learn to enjoy it someday!

    1. You don’t have to work so hard that you sweat and get out of breath to get some benefit from exercise. There’s walking, swimming, dancing, Tai Chi, and so forth.

      Exercise bores me, even though I know that my back will start to hurt a lot if I stop for a while. Boredom is bad enough, I’m sure it’s much worse when you have the same negative association with exercise that I have with dieting and body image shame. But I view exercise as a necessary part of my weekly routines, no different from washing the dishes, paying the bills, walking the dog, bathing the kids, and washing the laundry.

      I’m sorry if this is annoyingly preachy. I wish you well and do not mean to be an annoyance.

    2. That is such a hard rhetoric to break out of. Maybe don’t focus on makign it routine, or getting sweaty. A walk is fine. Stretching while watching tv is fine.

      Best of luck to you.

    3. UW: You’re right, the mental part is a HUGE deterrent. Personally, I hate exercise; and, I *really* hate being sweaty. But, I can deal with sweating while dancing b/c I love it enough to ignore the oog-factor and it doesn’t register as “exercise” b/c I’m not going to a gym. For ballroom you can even dress up and look nice, which seems to help. There is nothing like putting on sweats to make me feel horrible about myself and get into a mental downward spiral that leads to channel surfing instead of exercise.

      For those of us who don’t like to sweat, there’s mall walking and the like, or try some of the options Mike mentioned. Hatha Yoga is good too. The best instructors (imo) are those who slowly get you into a pose and then have you hold the pose. They keep the room warm, but not so hot that you start sweating (this is not “hot yoga” :) Hopefully, you can find something that you love which your brain doesn’t classify as exercise.

  11. After 12months of being a gym junkie and no weight loss… I climbed the Himalayas at 100kgs and acknowledged that fit and fat was what I was about. Still a gym junkie, still 100kgs and still taking on the world.

  12. Feeling better & being ABLE to walk at least some for as long as possible is why I exercise…well, that & the fact that I do not have a car or license & walking is my major form of transportation. I have been active all my life, can’t sit still all the time, have at several times battled the tendency to exercise compulsively, &, with cerebral palsy & arthritis, not walking on a regular basis is likely to put me in a wheelchair or a mobility scooter sooner. There is nothing wrong with using a chair or a scooter &, if I live as long as many of my relatives did, I am almost certain I will get there, but I do want to be as mobile as I can for as long as I can & I do believe that regular movement has health benefits, even if not quite as great as the culture/media, etc. want us to believe. After all, contrary to the scare stories so popular across the net now, there are & have been plenty of fairly sedentary people (though I honestly think most people move more than they or the world around us give them for credit for & I also think that All movement…exercise, housework, shopping, etc…counts) who have lived pretty long & normal & even quite healthy lives. Weight loss has been off the radar for me for a long time, so I move for transportation, to feel better, & for whatever health benefits do accrue.

  13. I’ll take “Fuck Yeah” for a 1000…

  14. It is absolutely, 100% worth it. (I’m pretty sure you already agree, but answering the rhetorical question anyway ;)

    Over the past year and a half I’ve transitioned from a sedentary lifestyle to a fairly active one and it’s made a huge difference in what my body can do and how I view it. I feel better, plus it’s easier to see my body positively because I can focus on its capabilities rather than how it looks.

    In the past, when I dieted, I avoided exercise because it made me hungry. I think now that I had it completely backwards– I should’ve avoided dieting and exercised more. :) My weight may or may not change but how I feel definitely has!

    1. It is a bit of a rhetorical question for many readers, but not all. ;)

  15. I’m motivated by fear, not weight loss. It’s a bad motivation, I know, but it really does force me out there. I’ve taken up running (well, at this stage it’s more like mild jogging once round the track). The reason? My mother has had a stroke and what’s happened to her could happen to me. Stuff weight loss. I want to keep my arteries intact.

  16. I used to have a built-in 5-mile daily walk in order to get to and from work. I loved it, especially in the mornings. It woke me up and got me ready for a long day. Sometimes, walking made my hip ache (I have dysplasia) but it also helped work the pain and tightness out because I was walking on it regularly. Now, I live in an unsafe neighborhood. I don’t walk like I used to, and I really miss it. I don’t feel like I am as healthy as I used to be, but I am not inclined to go to a gym because it just is not as fun for me.

  17. Yes! I know that if i don’t exercise regularly, I lose mobility and gain pain. It happened to me over the winter holidays last year.
    Also, wall pushups, what a good idea! I had never heard of them before. I looked them up and tried some. I have to modify a little though, ’cause my breasts met the wall before my nose – made me laugh :)

  18. I wanted to expound a bit, actually, on the exercise thing.

    If I exercise regularly I WILL feel better. I will have more energy, I will sleep better. I will be able to lift a kayak off a van easier. I will find grocery shopping and hauling all the groceries for a family that includes a teenaged son back into the house easier. I will find being animated for 3-6 hours when I teach a class won’t mean I have to take a nap when I get back home.

    The POINT of staying strong (in my opinion) is about function. I can DO things and have a better quality of life.

  19. That’s exactly what happens to me everytime I get into a fitness regime. It’s still worth it but it does make me a little less motivated. I love my body and I practice FA and HAES but it’s still a challenge at times and this would be a perfect example of one of those times.

  20. I think it would be perfectly worth it. That is all I want from exercise anyway.

  21. Yes, it is worth it if you’ve found exercise that you enjoy. I dance 3 times a week and enjoy every minute of it, even when I’m sweaty and my muscles and asking me if I’m crazy. I have been the same weight for a while and don’t tend to gain when I stop exercising although I did gain weight when I first started exercising.

    What I do notice in the various yearly breaks I have from dance is that I am more moody and often not as happy–even if I do enjoy the extra free time!

    So, for me, I say the exercise is entirely worth it even though it is not the one thing that maintains my weight and certainly isn’t helping me lose pounds. (The only thing that works there is to cut out sugar to pretty much non-existent levels. Sadly, this only works for a while until I decide to binge on sweets. I figure that is even less healthy, so I’m happy to stick with a reasonable diet and rationed sweets.)

  22. I have been regularly exercising for 50 plus years. I have never lost one pound because of it. In fact, I lose weight better if I don’t exercise.. I love to walk, hike, dance, rearrange furniture.
    My best kind of exercise would not be considered “exercise”. Gardening or landscaping, playing with my 2 big dogs (labs), archery, horse-shoes, badmitten, the list goes on and on. All this while I’m a good 40 pounds overweight by “normal” standards.

    1. My weight does fluctuate, but it doesn’t always go down with exercise. Sometimes it goes up. Measurements too – I can go up a size in my bra while going down a size in my jeans.

      That said, it doesn’t make me thin by any means. ;)

      1. Yes! Working out tends to build muscle, which tends to weigh more. :p Even if you are overall losing more fat than you are building muscle, that’s still net change over time – it’s not like those changes are evenly distributed each and every hour of each and every day.

        So, shut the hell up stupid Wii Fit. I possibly weigh a pound more than yesterday because I did new yoga moves recently and my body is adjusting to those. Or, not. Frankly, I do not care.

  23. Definitely! Sadly, we seem to be the minority.

    It frustrates me when I see people insisting up and down they are exercising and suchlike to “be healthy,” not to lose weight, onyl to stop in a month and half because they aren’t losing any weight and don’t see the point.

    I do roller derby. When I’m training regularly, I sleep well, I feel stronger, it’s easier to get up in the morning. And I don’t lose weight. I train for five-ten hours a week, and appearance wise? My legs are a little bigger, my stomach only a little flatter, my posture’s a bit better. That’s it.

    I’ve seen more than a few girls get into derby saying they are doing it to lose weight. Then they realise how damn hard it is, and you STILL don’t lose weight.

    Why, tangent. Sorry.

    I love exercise. I am moving back into my old place today, and I am so excited about riding my bike to work again. I am so grateful I now have a love of exercise for exercise’s sake, rather than before where it was torture and trying to make myself lose weight.

  24. For me, absolutely. In fact — while my weight has leveled off recently — I’m more likely to gain weight when exercising and more likely to lose weight when not.

    But I’m more likely to have the strength, stamina, flexibility, mobility, and good humor to make it through my days when I am exercising.

    So, all in all, I’ve actually learned to appreciate that “exercise add-on” weight I get.

  25. IF this were what would happen, then yes. And it does happen when I swim regularly – I have a combination of leg and foot problems that make walking-for-exercise a sometimes thing at best, and overdoing it badly on one day can leave me all-but-bedridden the next.

    The problem right now is that I’m dealing with this ridiculously overbooked schedule that creates the copious-spare-time problem. I feel like I’m trying to paste myself together until I can regularly take care of my body and have serious healing time – my foot may require surgery, but when the hell am I supposed to do THAT around being the primary income earner for my family and trying to put in my practicum hours so I can be licensed as a social worker? I hate knowing the theory and feeling utterly unable to pull off the practice. :(

  26. I LOVE exercise, to the point where I’m now a group fitness instructor (trained for RPM and in training for BODYJAM and SH’BAM). I exercise in the gym for 15 hours a week, but because rehearsing choreography for classes takes time also, it’s probably more like 20-25 hours of week of physical activity that I do at the moment.

    I love seeing the impact it has on my members – seeing the belief they find in themselves and how they get swept up in the endorphin buzz.

    It hasn’t been about weight loss for me for a very long time, and the moment I stopped thinking about weight loss, or expecting weight loss… I reckon then, and only then, did I begin to *truly* experience the benefits of exercise.

  27. Well, for me, I have a problem.

    Yes, I would still exercise for the health benefits. However, continuing to exercise without losing weight would be very damaging to my joints. So, would I? Not sure. Of course, I can be more active and walk and do some other things, but the level of exercise I would need to see actual cardivascular benefits is almost impossible for me at this weight. Maybe I would be forced to stop exercising and focus on weight loss in order to save my mobility.

    1. That also leads to the question, is it possible for you to lose weight without exercising? Or to find exercises that don’t stress your joints?

      I am not trying to argue that losing weight is bad. My problems with weight loss as a “fix” is that it takes time, usually doesn’t last, and what do you do in the meantime?

      The general suggestions for avoiding joint pain are to choose exercises that don’t push it (such as arm exercisers or, if you have limited mobility, swimming or water aerobics). I did physical therapy after a leg injury and have found that doing my PT exercises means little or no joint pain.

      1. Yep, I am losing weight without (much) exercising. I walk, that’s it for now. Doctor says I can swim but that causes me great pain in the joints afterwards. I can ride a recumbent indoor bike, but am limited in how much resistance and time I can do without hurting myself.

        I agree it takes time… four years so far and I am not done! In the meantime? I live :) I think we have to, and can, enjoy our lives as much as possible whatever size we are.

        You’re right about the PT! That helps a lot. I had improvement when I was doing PT regularly. However, my joints are shot, I need knee replacements, and PT is just trying to put that off for a bit.

        Anyway, I enjoy your blog and wish you the best :)

    2. Lyn, among the thousands of exercise programs out there are programs that use very slow repetition speeds, like ten seconds to move the weight up and ten seconds to lower it back down. This includes Super Slow, Slow Burn and Power of 10. Their basic principal is that force equals mass times acceleration. No matter how much mass is involved, if your acceleration is very small the total force is also small. The programs were originally developed as a weigh to offer strength exercise to older patients with osteoporosis and arthritis.

      Unfortunately, the literature for all three programs contain all the usual diet industry nonsense. I ignore those portions. They also recommend training as hard as you possibly can, albeit at their extremely slow pace. I found that both bad for my motivation and also unproductive. But you may be able to do that kind of exercise without joint pain.

      Good luck.

      1. Thank you Mike, I will look into that! I am always willing to try new things.

    3. “However, continuing to exercise without losing weight would be very damaging to my joints” <– Which exercise is it that you are undertaking?

      There are plenty of high intensity, low or zero impact workouts that one can undertake that place little to no stress on joints. One of the programs I teach is a zero impact program, and there are a large number of my participants who start taking part because they have experienced discomfort in other types of activity.

      I believe it is possible to find exercise that doesn't cause pain, though it's a matter of what is more important to you.

      Best of luck to you.

      1. Marshy,

        You and I ought to have a discussion about those options. Maybe I have been limiting myself because I was not aware of what’s out there to try. Mainly, I have had severe pain in anything weight bearing, also with swimming (even the slow ‘old lady’ swim aerobics class), riding a normal bike, walking more than 3 or so miles at a time unmedicated, anything with fast movement that involves instability in the knees or hips. Would love to hear more about your programs!

  28. I have to move around as much as possible to stay “mobile”. I did walking that kept me off oxygen, and able to do more. I wish it did take more weight off, I do not blame people for wanting to see “results” for their exercise. People need to find fun activities they like to do. Exercise shouldn’t all be boredom and suffering, you’ll never stick with it then.

  29. […] it goes deeper — or maybe broader — than that. Recently, the blog Living ~400lbs posted The Fitness Question, asking readers if the benefits of exercise would be worth it if they never lost weight. Weight […]

  30. […] highly encourage if you haven’t seen this post, and haven’t submitted a response in the comments to at least think of your answer to this […]

  31. Absolutely… The benefits of exercise make it worth your while. Just keep moving everyday or one day you may not be able to. If you are exercising and mobile, that just makes you feel better about yourself in every way. Keep on the move!

  32. I would say… most likely not… I would love to be fitter and healthier and at less risk of heart failure/diabetes etc. But the main reason I aim to exercise is to lose weight… I want to be able to go into a clothes store and buy clothes without having to go to ‘specialty stores’. I want to get dressed up and be thought of as sexy…

    I realize the benifits that come from exercise are plentiful and many to most are way more important than weight loss, but I understand it… Only exercising to lose weight…

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About Me

Former software tester, now retired heart patient having fun and working on building endurance and strength. See also About page.

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