Fake Fitness News: Training at Your Gym Is Pointless

A cartoon graphic showing four hands holding up smartphones with the words "fake news" on them.

Misinformation is a big problem right now.

Take, for example, this headline from Time.com:

“Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight.”

Potential clients are seeing that headline—so you’re going to need to present the real facts.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

The Time article by Robert J. Davis eventually circles back to close with this: Exercise is “perhaps the most important thing you can do for your health. But to improve the odds of success, focus on how movement helps you feel better physically and emotionally—and forget about how it moves the needle on the scale.”

That’s all fine and good, but the rather limp call to action is based on two mistaken assertions earlier in the article:

1. Diet and exercise produce “unimpressive” weight-loss results.

2. People can easily forget about a goal of losing weight.

The second one first: You can’t tell people what their goals are. They get to choose them for themselves. And weight loss happens to be one of the main goals for people who are thinking about working out. You know this. You’ve spoken to hundreds of clients, and so have I.

We can certainly help people see and appreciate emotional or physical changes as milestones in their journey, but they’ll still want to arrive at their preferred destination.

For example, you might celebrate when a client who wants to lose 5 lb. notices his clothes fit differently even if the number on the scale is the same. But, as his coach, you’re still focused on achieving his stated goal.

Back in the day, I made the mistake of trying to change clients’ goals. I wanted them to do more work faster or squat with better mechanics instead of focus on losing weight or gaining muscle. It didn’t work. Many looked at better Fran times only as a means to achieve their real goals—and I eventually learned that.


Say What?

Now the first issue—and the one you should address on your blog: diet and exercise don’t help people lose weight.

I don’t have to tell another gym owner that this is complete BS. So how does Davis make his case? Simple:

1. His definitions are different from yours—for example, he lists walking for 30 minutes a day five days a week as “exercise.” For most people, that’s not exercise. It’s “activity,” and it should be presented as a better-than-nothing first step for a very deconditioned person, not as cornerstone of training for weight loss.

2. His “data” comes from a scholarly article that has its full text hidden behind a paywall, and he fails to realize the significance of this line from the abstract: “these levels (of exercise) are generally inadequate for clinically significant weight loss or weight maintenance without caloric restriction.” Remember, we’re talking about 150 minutes of walking or just 75 minutes of “vigorous physical activity” every week—and yet the abstract suggests even those regimens will work to a degree when nutrition is addressed. So it’s very likely that diet and more appropriate exercise will work wonders in combination.

3. He also pulls more nonsense out of another study: “When moderate exercise is added to diet, the results are equally unimpressive. Pooling data from six trials, researchers found that a combination of diet and exercise generated no greater weight loss than diet alone after six months.” Get this: The researchers classified “brisk walking” as a high-intensity activity, and at least one study used “vibration plates as the physical activity component.” No wonder the addition of “exercise” didn’t produce greater results.

There’s more hands-in-the-air nonsense about how the sessions needed for weight loss “go well beyond what most of us are willing or able to do,” but we’ll move on.


Real Experts Vs. Fake News


Prospective clients will read this in a major magazine and think “I can’t lose weight with diet and exercise.” Remember the old—and very stupid—articles about how drinking wine is linked to weight loss?

You need to show people what a healthy diet and appropriate exercise can really do. Here’s how:

  • Write a blog called “Why You Should Exercise to Lose Weight.”
  • Link to the Time article with something like this: “You might have read this piece. Here’s the truth … .”
  • Explain how an appropriate training program and healthy nutrition combine to produce weight loss. (Mention that you offer combo programs.)
  • Present bullet points describing how much weight at least three clients lost in six months with a personalized exercise and diet plan. Include quotes or pictures if you have them.
  • Conclude by telling people who are confused about weight loss to book a free consultation, in which you’ll answer all their questions and put together a plan that will help them accomplish their goals.


Fake news is a thing. But only experts can spot it in seconds. When it comes to fitness, you are that expert. Don’t let prospective clients read garbage and miss out on activities that will change their lives.

Present the real facts, back them up with examples, and then tell people exactly how to accomplish their health and fitness goals.

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