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April 25, 2005

DAVID BROOKS:

The release of a report in The Journal of the American Medical Association indicating that overweight people actually live longer than normal-weight people represents an important moment in the history of world civilization. It is the moment when we realize that Mother Nature - unlike Ivy League admissions committees - doesn't like suck-ups.

It turns out she doesn't like those body-worshiping, multi-abbed marvels who've spent so much time at the bench press machine they look as if they have thighs growing out of either side of their necks. She doesn't like those health-conscious rice cake addicts you see at Manhattan restaurants ordering a skinned olive for lunch and sitting there looking trim and fit in their tapered blouses while their buns of steel leave permanent dents in the upholstery.

Though to be fair, the bench-press dudes, even at 5% bodyfat, come in as "overweight" on the lame body-mass indices usually used for such studies.

UPDATE: For those interested in this subject, I highly recommend this book by Ahnuld. If you read it carefully, you'll know more than most trainers at most gyms. And this one, though more basic, is still quite good -- and worth the purchase price just for the amusingly dated photos.

And yes, I know that this runs counter to Brooks' stop-worrying-and-enjoy-life point. But only sort of. Lifting weights and exercising in general will make you feel better, not worse. I'm no Arnold, of course (you've seen the photos!) but it's done me a lot of good. Nor, approached properly, does it interfere with enjoying life -- as one of my friends says, "I work out so I can drink beer, not so I can't!" After all, there's nothing hedonistic about sitting on your ass all the time.

[LATER: First Ahnuld link was bad; fixed now.] Also Ogged hammers Brooks on the BMI factor. And Tom Maguire has more.

UPDATE: Reader Jeffrey Jackson emails:

I started lifting a year ago, a 50 yr old attorney, for surgery rehab. I enjoyed it, read Arnold's book, kept reading and lifting, and have a comment or two on your post.

First, the best site on the web for info on lifting belongs to one of Arnold's old competitors, davedraper.com. The discussion forum is priceless. The articles on nutrition and exercise are very good.

Second, Arnold's book is fine, but his high-volume isolation approach is way wrong for most beginners. Look at the sample workouts on Dave Draper's web site, and you will see the alternative approach, focused on fewer, compound movements. I am much happier with this approach than Arnold's, and expect I will be for a long time to come.

I find that variation is the key, over time.

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