A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of delivering the keynote address for Physical Health and Education Canada’s annual national conference.

The title of my talk was « Rebranding Exercise » and it makes the case for detaching exercise from weight loss and reattaching it to health.

As to why exercise needs to be rebranded? By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug – better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to short-change the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously misinform them about the realities of long term weight management.

The video is embedded below and I’ve also provided links to every journal article I mention in the talk listed in order of appearance. The first 28 minutes has me covering the evidence with as much animation as standing behind a podium allows, but if you just want to see me get fired up and explain why rebranding exercise is important, skip ahead to the 28 minute mark where I extricate myself from the clutches of the podium and watch from there.


  1. Physical activity at the government-recommended level and obesity-related health outcomes: a longitudinal study (Early Bird 37)
  2. Effect of school-based physical activity interventions on body mass index in children: a meta-analysis
  3. Physical Activity Interventions in Schools for Improving Lifestyle in European Countries
  4. Physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors in children: meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials
  5. The impact of school-time activity on total physical activity: the activitystat hypothesis (EarlyBird 46)
  6. Do extra compulsory physical education lessons mean more physically active children – findings from the childhood health, activity, and motor performance school study Denmark (The CHAMPS-study DK)
  7. Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness: a longitudinal study in children (EarlyBird 45)
  8. Current physical activity guidelines for health are insufficient to mitigate long-term weight gain: more data in the fitness versus fatness debate (The HUNT study, Norway)
  9. Physical activity energy expenditure has not declined since the 1980s and matches energy expenditures of wild mammals
  10. Energy Expenditure and Adiposity in Nigerian and African American Women
  11. Energy expenditure does not predict weight change in either Nigerian or African American women
  12. Energy expenditure in adults living in developing compared with industrialized countries: a meta-analysis of doubly labeled water studies
  13. Reduction in Obesity and Related Comorbid Conditions after Diet-Induced Weight Loss or Exercise-Induced Weight Loss in Men: A Randomized, Controlled Trial
  14. Effect of change in physical activity on body fatness over a 10-y period in the Doetinchem Cohort Study
  15. Maintaining a High Physical Activity Level Over 20 Years and Weight Gain
  16. A Meta-Analysis of Pedometer-Based Walking Interventions and Weight Loss
  17. Exercise effect on weight and body fat in men and women
  18. Effect of Exercise on 24-Month Weight Loss Maintenance in Overweight Women
  19. Impact of physical activity interventions on anthropometric outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis
  20. Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long-term waist circumference change in men
  21. Population estimates of Australian children’s exposure to food and beverage sponsorship of sports clubs

[Blog reprinted from Weighty Matters]

Yoni Freedhoff
Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, MD, CCFP, Dip ABOM, is an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, and is the medical director of Ottawa's Bariatric Medical Institute Dr. Freedhoff is widely considered to be Canada's most outspoken obesity expert and he appears regularly in both national and international media. His award winning blog Weighty Matters has enjoyed over 10 million visits, and he also writes regularly for Psychology Today, US News and World Report, The Globe & Mail, and the Huffington Post. His first book for the public, The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work was a number one national Canadian best seller, while his handbook geared at health professionals, Best Weight: An Practical Guide to Office-Based Obesity Management, at his and his co-author's request, is freely available for download from the Canadian Obesity Network. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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