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My Lifetime of Personal Stupidity, as Explained by the New York Times

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Has anyone but me noticed the plethora of mainstream news stories about obesity, dieting, exercise, fitness, nutrition and health. I seem surrounded and inundated by them. I do not mean here on Spark (we get what we deserve here, on our "What does one reasonably expect for free?" Sparkpeople web site). I'm talking about CNN, Time Magazine, 60 Minutes, the major daily newspapers (are any newspapers still "major"?), the blogosphere, etc.

Ahem, like it or not, we Sparkies stand at the crossroads of a well-focused marketing effort!

Everyone and his unreasonably skinny sister seems to be writing, commenting, or (as the internet is wont to do - plagiarizing) stories that would be right at home here on Spark. Is this a symptom of the demographics we Sparkies find ourselves within? Does not much of the population seem like they could lose a few extra pounds and inches too? If this were not the case, how would all those gyms and personal trainers find a market? Well, the customer base simply is ginormous! (no pun intended, of course). emoticon

Yes, the skinny Society norm now both discriminates against us (Whose jeans are on the bottommost shelf at The Gap?) and profiteers at our expense. Now adding insult to injury, comes today's New York Times, with a front-and-center story on how exercise correlates to improved mental acuity ("smarts" in the simple-minded lexicon of fat folks like me): emoticon

Anyone want to lay odds on whether or not the author is a couch potato? Not me! That said, I feel we Sparkies are a pretty bright group. It is said that awareness and recognition is half the battle. And we are here, are we not? Troubling is the insinuation of the correlation (if not causation) of being overweight with not being intelligent.

This brings me to my question for Sparkies who have achieved their goals and are in maintenance mode: are you smarter now? Could you handle more analogies on the SATs with aplomb? Solve differential equations more quickly and accurately in your head, now as compared to before, while on your elliptical machine? Ah... didn't think so. Must be a slow news day in New York City, huh?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I took the article meaning our brains are in better condition if exercised. Not that people who exercise are necessarily stupid. They studied people who exercised versus people who led sedentary lives and that the ones who exercised had newer brain cells that became "useful" and "more connected" to improve brain function. Just common sense that you can use it or loose it. Not that people who didn't exercise were any smarter than those who didn't. Everyone has their own level of intelligence, but to keep that level it is useful to exercise. Just my take on the article.
    2094 days ago
    I didn't read the article either but number one; that girl is WAY TOO THIN! She's sick! and number too. She didn't DO that, you can tell it's a pic of a tree and a pic of a girl stretching after exercise pasted onto it! LOL
    2097 days ago
    Okay, so if I were a marathon runner, I'd be a genius, huh?

    Yeah, I didn't think so either.
    2099 days ago
  • LPETRO119
    Argh! Articles on any scientific topic in the mainstream media that try to take a very complex topic and boil it down into a single headline drive me crazy!! OK - mini rant over!

    I've always been described as "chubby" - I hold a PhD in chemistry. My hubby (who is not what anyone would describe as small) holds a MS and ABD in chemistry. Both of us were smaller in grad school. (me only slightly, he more so) Not buying the fitness=smarts argument...

    Fitness HAS given me the ability to deal with stress and I don't feel as tired as I used to, so I get more done in a day. Therefore, by that logic fitness=more productive...think I can get that published?

    BTW, I work in industry, not academics, so publishing record is NOT an issue! emoticon
    2099 days ago
    I agree with you -- I don't buy the "intelligence" part. What I will say is that I know I fell as if I am more able to cope with life's every day stresses and problems when I do some form of exercise. Maybe that was what the writer was attempting to convey, but maybe he/she did not do their exercise, hence not a so well written article!

    2100 days ago
    I only skimmed the article but I'm inclined to agree that yes, it was indeed a slow news day. I haven't read the studies which the NYT article "cites" but these are my thoughts (as a PhD who uses mouse models to study urological diseases):

    1. Exercise changes so many things in our body, I wouldn't be surprised if exercise does improve neuronal function. But...
    2. intelligence is a very difficult thing to quantify. I wouldn't necessarily make that leap between points 1 and 2.
    3. For most researchers, mouse models are the best we've got as it's not exactly ethical to do experiments on humans but I admit that mouse models don't have the best track record when it comes to modeling human issues (disease, behavior, etc).

    2100 days ago
    Marketing targeted to put the weight on--then more marketing targeted to take the weight off. It reminds me of the dizzying world of Dr. Seuss's star-belly snitches. Hopefully we can learn the same lesson of being more excepting of everybody.
    2100 days ago
  • NEWMOM20121
    Slow news days always brings out the bottom of the barrel stories. I would ask is this really news, does anyone really care and is this the best you got? With all we have going on in the world is there ever really a slow news day.

    Thanks for the blog, it made me a little smarter. emoticon
    2100 days ago
  • DRB13_1
    The correlation with exercise & problem solving/intelligence is actually to address aging, not size.

    That given, what always amuses me are the magazines by the checkout counter that tout both a fad diet and the latest recipes. emoticon Talk about mixed messages!
    2101 days ago
    hi there.

    Didn't read the article, but in reading the comments, I got the drift.
    I think back to a time when I was much healthier than I am now -- and went to the gym regularly. While I didn't feel any smarter - I have to say that over time, my active lifestyle led to my being better able to control my ADD - I could concentrate better and retain more information when the endorphans were 'shouting' than I'm able now, with a much more sedentary lifestyle. Smarter, no. But more confident and 'caught up' -- yes!!

    Life is funny.
    2101 days ago
    Thanks for sharing the interesting NY Times article. Although I've seen LOTS about obesity --- this isn't about obesity, it's about the benefits of physical exercise to the aging brain. As the author says, " ... exercise needn’t be exhausting to be effective for the brain." It boils down to: use it or lose it.

    2101 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/22/2012 12:46:01 PM
  • RUSSELL_40
    I may be fat, but at least I know you don't do your stretching in a Pretty sure I am smarter than her.

    Basically this says that if you exercise you will form neurological pathways that you can use for other forms of thinking. Have more brain power. Yes, it is saying, if you work out, you will have more brain power. What a waste school was. THOSE neurons will only fire when we are thinking about THOSE subjects. We should have just did phys ed all those years, and we would all have almost unlimited brain power.. no knowledge, but a LOT of brain power.

    Who knows, maybe being forced to run on a wheel, kicks in an animal instinct to learn more, because the mice are looking for a way to, maybe they think the brightly colored interior is just garrish, and are building neurons thinking " how the hell do I get over to mouse # 3's cage, such nice gray interior, and he is lounging around, no damn wheel "

    2101 days ago
    I read the article as having to do with exercise preventing/slowing the inevitable cognitive decline that comes with aging. I didn't think they were trying to make the point that fitness = intelligence, per se, but rather that you can stay sharper for longer as you age if you exercise, not as a bash on overweight people. I'm middle aged, and actually find the this kind of inofrmation serves as extra motiation and reminder about why I need to get out and exercise even when I don't feel like it at that moment!
    Then again, they say that the benefit is that at age 65, you can have the mind of a 63 year old... lol. Doesn't seem like a huge difference!
    2101 days ago
    Intelligence? Don't know about that but definitely more stamina and energy. So many look for the "quick fixes" and there just isn't one! Nutrition, exercise and taking care of your health.
    2101 days ago
    I don't know about intelligence but I can see the limitless market for so many different 'weight loss' gadgets and programs.
    2101 days ago
    I don't know--my best friend and I both have Ph.Ds and both need to lose about 50 lbs. OTOH, I do think regular exercise helps maintain what mental acuity we already have. Alzheimer's runs in my family and I see the cognitive decline in my dad go hand in hand with his physical deterioration.
    2101 days ago
    I have also noticed an upsurge of information about the health concerns for overweight people. But I do not see the correlation between weight and intelligence. Some of what the research is probably indicating is the lack of self-confidence one has when overweight and the unwillingness to step forward with ideas when one knows that those ideas will not be accepted because they are presented by someone who does not fit the stereotypical "healthy, attractive" individual who has the right to speak and be heard. There have been many times when I have heard of wonderful ideas created by someone who is overweight and considered by most "unattractive" and those ideas are not accepted. But someone else who is "attractive" by society's standards can present the same idea and have it accepted. So once someone loses a certain amount of weight, they don't gain intelligence, they gain the confidence to present their ideas.
    2101 days ago
    I don't think that exercise changes our IQ. We ARE intelligent, as you say. What exercise does is facilitate blood and oxygen circulation, which nourishes our bodies AND our brains. If you exercise, you'll keep your brain in better working order so that your innate intelligence shows better.

    Think of it as a sports car -- which one runs better, the one that is neglected or the one given regular oil changes, tune ups, and other maintenance? It makes sense to me that maintaining our bodies in good order will make positive differences in many ways, including the functioning of the brain.

    2101 days ago
    Yep, I have noticed all that "news"... was wondering if it's just because I'm on Spark so I notice it more or not.
    2101 days ago
    I know exercise is good for you, etc., etc. But it's been my experience that many of the most intelligent people I have known in school are also overweight.
    2101 days ago
  • KATHRYN1955
    It isn't only decreased "mental acuity" that is linked to those of us with excess poundage, but it seems that every physical ailment known to humankind is blamed on obesity. I do agree that a "normal" BMI is certainly preferable, but I certainly take offense with the condescending attitude one gets from many health professionals. I don't consider myself tremendously obese and it was not long ago that I had an episode of chest pain, only to be told that I was in denial about my lifestyle. Unfortunately, if that happens again, I would think twice before seeking medical help, which goes against current preventative advice.
    Thin people do have heart attacks, cancer, hypertension, arthritis etc.
    Anyway, if nothing else, I am a fit, somewhat obese woman, who goes to the gym 3 times/week, (cardio and strength for 2 hours each time) and I consider myself as intelligent as I was in my younger, thinner years, if not more so!
    There is my rant for the day and don't believe everything you read!

    2101 days ago
  • KANOE10
    I have not noticed being any smarter on maintenance..I do notice that with exercising every day that i have more energy and am happier.

    I do agree with you that our society is obsessed with weight and articles are everywhere.
    I just heard that 1/3 kids in the US is overweight.
    2101 days ago
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