Post No.: 0539
In order for consumers to make fully-informed and truthfully-informed decisions, they need perfect information. A lack of perfect information is one reason put forward why consumers often make sub-optimal decisions for themselves, and in turn why free markets can sometimes fail to produce optimal outcomes, thus leading to problems such as high rates of obesity in society. We might not ever achieve perfect information in reality but we should strive for it.
So knowing how much exercise is needed to burn off the energy contained in a (realistic-sized) serving of food or drink might encourage some people to think twice about consuming it as a snack. Some people would choose lower-calorie options if they knew how much it’d take to burn those calories off through exercise. It takes ~1 minute of running at 5-8kph, or ~2 minutes of walking at 3-5kph, to burn off 10 calories.
It might take 40 minutes of walking to burn off a bar of chocolate, for instance. Indicating how long it’d take an average person to burn off the calories of something won’t decrease individual choice since people can still choose to buy it or not, it’ll increase useful information so that consumers will be better informed in their choices, and it won’t increase costs for a food wrapper would’ve needed printing on anyway.
This information won’t influence everyone or work in all situations (e.g. ego-depleted or tired individuals, or those who simply don’t care about their own health) but it may help some people make better-informed choices. The main point isn’t that it would technically take everyone 40 minutes to burn off the calories contained in a chocolate bar – it’s to make it even easier to compare one item to another and in ways that are more tangible, meaningful and understandable to the consumer.
But one drawback is that such food labelling might exacerbate the problems of those with under-eating disorders – they’ll see them as perhaps minimum targets of activity. Hence this could be dangerous for those who have under-eating disorders, who’ll use this information to ensure that they lose weight, especially if the amount of exercise stated is technically for the total amount contained in the food rather than minus the amount of energy needed for a person to just survive and the amount of energy needed to digest the food itself. We need energy not just for exercising but for sleeping, thinking, respiring and literally everything we do when alive. As a ruff rule, about 60% of our calories are just for staying alive, 10% is for eating and digesting the food and drink we consume itself, and 30% is for exercise or moving beyond what’s required for basic daily survival. Also, whether the effect of making people think twice about what meal or snack options they choose will persist in the long-term, or whether they’ll just start to ignore this information over time, is yet known.
Fluffystealthkitten wrote a post dedicated to the subject of calorie consumption in Post No.: 0534. In terms of burning off calories, what matters are the intensity, duration and number of muscles used (or really the total mass of muscles used because larger muscles will use more energy than smaller muscles) during an activity. Weight-bearing exercises are more demanding, hence running (standing up) usually burns calories at a greater rate than cycling (sitting down but occasionally being off the seat) or rowing (sitting down), for a given pace.
Calorie and activity counters/logs depend on your own accuracy in reporting what you consume and do. A lot of people deceive themselves about the amount of calories they consume – they frequently under-report their own intake, and over-report their own expenditure. (This is a common bias of perception, and it potentially skews any research data that is based on self-reporting.) These sorts of apps or devices may encourage people to keep their consumption and activity levels in mind so may be better than nothing, even if they aren’t absolutely reliable, but they can also be gamed if people start chasing numbers for the sake of chasing numbers, and can give people a false sense of achievement too, for which they might reward themselves afterwards… with a large slice of cake(!)
So although they can make you more mindful of what you’re consuming – calorie trackers depend on how accurately they work out the calories of each and everything you consume, and how accurately and completely you personally report each and everything you consume. With present consumer technologies at least, different brands and models of calorie trackers and activity trackers can vary wildly in how much they say you’ve consumed and how much they say you’ve burned – and this is problematic when just several calories extra per day, every single day for a long time, will aggregate into weight gain.
With current technologies at least, step counters (pedometers) that use a phone’s accelerometers are quite variable and unreliable. Many wrist-worn devices measure arm movement rather than calories burnt, hence repeatedly eating potato chips might be recorded as ‘a lot of exercise’, whereas a few barbell squats will not(!) There are a plethora of health apps out there nowadays but they are seldom clinically tested and aren’t a substitute for doctors and approved equipment. (Government/national health service-approved apps are more likely to have been clinically tested, and government/national health service-approved heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc. measuring equipment are more likely to be sufficiently accurate.)
Fitness apps and technologies will improve – yet unless something solves the issue of maintaining motivation and discipline then having all the fancy apps and equipment in the world won’t help!
Measuring your progress is important hence something that helps you to do this isn’t a bad thing. But food rewards shouldn’t be given to oneself for doing a bit of exercise then recording it. On the other side of the coin, one shouldn’t feel disheartened for breaking a previously perfect record of behaviour either.
All things considered, no one really needs expensive or fancy gadgets or gym equipment to keep fit. Unless you have the money, space and you will use it enough times or will find it fun to use – there’s no need to buy fancy exercise equipment. For example, there are a lot of abdominal training machines on the market that only do a limited movement for a limited part of your body, whereas a cheap, easy-to-store mat will offer so much more if you research some exercises online.
Like a calorie is a calorie – a resistance is a resistance. It doesn’t matter about the expense of the equipment. The body will treat lifting a 1.5kg bag of fluffy flour the same as lifting a 1.5kg dumbbell (although the ergonomics when holding the dumbbell is better for grip and safety). There are many different ways of getting active hence all of these exercise equipment inventions that can be created and sold – despite the human body having only a limited number of limbs with limited ranges of movement. All that matters is what motion or position your body is going through or is in, and under what resistance. And as long as you’re experiencing at least a little bit of challenge then you’re going to improve in some way or another, whether in strength, power, flexibility, endurance, balance, reaction time and/or whatever. So it’s not about what equipment you’ve got but what you do with your body!
And no decent exercise moves you – you have to move it and move yourself! Many people really want to find shortcuts to exercising, hence standing or sitting on something that vibrates or otherwise moves us seems incredibly appealing. But although keeping stable on them requires some work on our part, it’s like just because you’re going at 20kph sitting in a car, it doesn’t mean you’re exercising at 20kph(!) Of course the manufacturers are going to claim that their own scientific research shows positive results with their own products because they’re trying to promote and sell them. They might show that they’re better than doing no exercise at all, but are they better than doing other, perhaps cheaper and more accessible, forms of exercise? These are the questions to consider and ask when looking to buy exercise equipment – for the last sources to unquestionably trust are those who are trying to sell you those products (or their competitors, who’d rather you buy their products instead). Their marketing is going to be the least impartial of all. This goes back to how consumers need perfect information, not one-sided information, to make fully-informed and truthfully-informed decisions.
Although light intensity exercise is still beneficial for us compared to doing nothing, if you can talk comfortably when you are using a particular machine then your lungs and heart aren’t getting a rigorous workout – and these organs are more important to make stronger than, say, your bicep or calf muscles, even though you can’t show off with a picture of your lungs and heart on social media(!)
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) or EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) devices will help burn some energy compared to doing nothing (although again this isn’t the best control to compare with) and they can possibly enhance a routine if used in conjunction with other forms of exercise – but they’re not substitutes for other forms of exercise if one is otherwise able-bodied or not rehabilitating from an injury. With one brand, even their own advertisements say ‘20 minutes is equivalent to doing 200 crunches’ but you can do 200 crunches in half that time! (Although be careful with your form – or better still, do some better exercises for your core like planks and lying leg raises, which also need no equipment apart from maybe a mat.)
I’m also generally against any exercise equipment that needs batteries or mains electricity (except to power their meters/clocks). The power to move a machine should come from our own muscles rather than from the grid. Exercise should be by nature environmentally friendly – in fact, all exercise machines should perhaps be utilised to generate electricity via dynamos! Treadmills may be an exception, yet running outside amongst nature is more preferable to that virtually any day in my opinion. Woof!
Most of the gym equipment on the market won’t do any harm if used properly, and may offer variety and keep sessions interesting, but you can save yourself money, space and sometimes even time, and be just as active and fit. You can get them if you really want – but you don’t need them. These machines also evidently don’t solve the issue of self-discipline because many of these things just end up gathering dust after a (short) while! Buying them then setting them up evidently isn’t anywhere near half the battle! Regarding any plan, we’re good at doing the easy bits (e.g. buying new equipment, joining a gym) but bad at doing the more difficult and key bits (e.g. using the equipment, regularly going to the gym)!
It’s important to ensure that whatever equipment you have and use is regularly cleaned, well maintained and that you use them safely too – don’t be one of those with ‘all the gear, no idea’.
Whether you want to join a gym or not is up to you. A gym membership offers you access to social exercise classes and facilities not available in most people’s homes. But at home, you don’t need a lot of equipment. Most online fitness coaches will verify that. Many people found ways to exercise at home during the present pandemic – the problem was keeping it up in subsequent lockdowns rather than knowing how to exercise at home! Simple equipment like dumbbells and a mat last forever – the only real ongoing necessary cost is decent footwear.
Woof. Technically, you don’t need any special equipment at all – the main thing is probably getting changed into appropriate workout attire and developing a consistent ritual that makes you feel ready to move!