Chewing the fat

Today in annoying studies: Overweight women who want to lose weight should exercise longer. Duh.

Published July 30, 2008 8:05PM (EDT)

According to a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine, fat women need to exercise. This assumes, of course, that they want to lose weight. The findings of this study, headed by a doctor from the University of Pittsburgh, might seem utterly intuitive, but the real mystery this two-year inquiry intended to solve was how much fat women need to exercise in order to keep off that weight. (Apparently 150 minutes a week is recommended.)

But why "fat women"? It seems clear that these doctors had something in mind -- though the text does not make that clear -- when they focused on this demographic for their study. And I suppose that, in a subsequent experiment, they might round up a bunch of beer-gutted linebackers, attach electrodes to their asses and make them work the Stairmaster. Yet it does give one pause to note that the media has, for the most part, declined to question whether the same findings might hold true for overweight men. Instead it has reported the nonstory with headlines like "Obese and Overweight Women Told to Exercise 55 Minutes a Day" or "Overweight Women Have to Work Out Twice as Hard," giving the findings a strange tinge of sexism and schadenfreude, especially since the results don't suggest that obese women need to work out harder than slimmer ones, just that of the overweight women in the test group, those who extended their workout time lost more weight. Duh. Sadly, we're told, not all of the 170 women who completed the experiment kept off the weight. Oh well. They can always try out for the next study.

By James Hannaham

James Hannaham is a staff writer at Salon.

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