Question about exercise: fat gym bunnies vs. skinny ones

Let’s say I, majorly overweight, arrive at the gym at the same time as Mindii (with 2 i’s!), who has a Body by Jake.

Mindii and I both get on the same kind of machine (in this case, it looks like a cross between a stair stepper and a NordicTrack) and we start sweating.

And let’s say I burn 400 calories in 30 minutes.

Poor little Mindii only burns 150 calories in the same amount of time.

(To make things easy, let’s say that me and Mindii have the same number of strides per minute.)

Who has worked harder, or have we both done equal amounts of physical exertion?

At what point, if any, would our physical exertion be equal? If, in the scenario mentioned above, I have worked harder just by virtue of burning more calories in the same amount of time (because I’m lugging more weight), would Mindii’s exertion be equal to mine if she stayed at it long enough to burn 400 calories for herself? This would take her well over an hour to do, though, so in that case, would she have worked harder just because she worked out much longer than me?

Can this even be answered?

In terms of calories expended, you have, since you carried maybe double the weight the same distance in the same time. If you don’t mean calories, I’m not sure what you are meaning by “amounts of physical exertion”.

Yes, calories equate to work expended. However this is not the real world scenario. In actual, buff Mindi would set the resistance up and crank the speed up and get a very impressive workout while you would struggle not to die at the low settings. End result is probably that work expended would be similar or Mindi would actually do more.

Mindii has two i’s! People who can’t be bothered to get things right shouldn’t be posting in GQ!


In absolute simplest terms, work is a matter of moving mass M some distance D.

W = M x D (hmmm… exercise is a weapon of mass destruction? Well, I suppose if you’re burning off the kilos, it is.)

If you and Mindii both move the same distance, then the one who has moved the most mass has done more work.

Note that in this very simplified example, speed does not make any difference in the amount of work done. In the real world, this may not be the case.

The short answer is no - this can not be answered.

The long answer is that without defining at least “equality” and “exertion” it is impossible to make any meaningfull assertions about this matter

I have a feeling what you are really trying to ask is “will I lose more weight than Mindiiiiiiiiii(sic) in the same amount of time assuming the same exercise regime?”

Here is my standard reply:

Energy In > Energy Out => Store energy (increase fat reserves).

Energy In < Energy Out => Supplement with energy stores (decrease fat reserves).

Energy In = Energy Out => Stasis (no change).

This is a touch simplistic in terms of the complicated chain of fats and glycogens(? it’s been a while) that your body uses to store and retrieve energy - but it is about the right level for your average Joe/Joanna.


Doesn’t it also depend on whether either SnoooopyFan or Mindiiiii has consumed X number of sweet, sweet doughnuts before exercising, and how effective their respective bodies are at metabolizing said sweet, sweetness?

The machine you were using, the elliptical trainer (also refered to as the Precor - the company that popularized it) should ask you to input your weight and age before you start your workout, those numbers are used to compute your total calories burned. So your workouts are relative.

I think Mindiiiii should change her name.

I don’t even understand the reason the question is being asked.

Let me reformulate the question slightly:

“Imagine I and Mindii sat in a Barcalounger, watching Judge Judy and eating bonbons for half an hour. Which one of us experienced more physical exertion?”

In terms of work, lifting a 50-lb turkey drumstick of an arm to convey a bonbon to the mouth is probably significantly more work than lifting one of Mindii’s ‘hot wing’ matchstick arms. However, if Mindii is truly buff (and not just skinny) her trained muscles would have a higher metabolic rate than the hypothertical snoopyfan’s sedentary, nay, near comatose, muscles (‘hypothetical snoopyfan’ because, as we all well know, the real snoopyfan is lithe and svelte)

Mindii might well be burning more calories than her 20-lb heavier mother, Mindi [1] watching the same show, eating the same bonbon - and she’s less likely to gain weight doing so. However, if the difference were much more substantial, her mother would likely be burning more calories.

Weight gain/loss and fitness are more complicated than mere calories. For example, as a child I calculated that the calories in the sanck chips I ate when I wasn’t really hungry added up to more than my total body weight (I was a skinny kid). It would seem that without those totally superfluous snacks, I would have long since died - but clearly this isn’t true. In fact, if you add up the lifetime of superfluous snacks eaten by a typical overweight American, you might be tempted to believe we’d all be dead without junk food.

(No criticism of the overweight intended. It’s just that after man yyears of study of biochemistry, including degrees in moleculkar biology and medicine, I feel calorie counting is ridiculously simplistic, and ignores effectively all the relevant control mechanisms that lead to anything but minor weight gain or loss. In a century, it’ll probably sound like those Victorian copper bracelets and magnetis therapies)

[1] For those unfamiliar with the naming coinventions of the buff gymbunny: the additional i’s are akin to the Roman numerals used by royalty (which some gymbunnies feel they are), Properly, the sequence is Mindy begets Mindi (start of a dynasty) begets Mindi with a heart over the i, who only properly becomes Mindii when she has a child of her own (Mindiii), but many a buff gymbunny hurries the progression in an excess of maternal ambition, which backfires when the stressed child discovers Jerry Springer, Bonbons and Barcaloungers. The proper progression of the i’s does however, continue even if the child is not named after the mother: i.e. Mindii may beget a girl Cindiii or a boy Samiii

It hasn’t yet hit the popular consciousness, but the view you express is alive and well in the academic community.

But what about the part where counting calories is an effective way for the overweight to become less overweight or normal weight? When you need to give people instructions, simple is best. Doctors who treat obesity have to give instructions. (Or slice and suck, but that’s another matters…)

I think it’s actually force times distance.

Restricting calories on a diet that’s already nutrient-deficient won’t make things better.

There is no answer.

Working out does not help you lose weight in any way. Neither does eating "healthy"foods. These are myths perpetuated such cruel & evil organizations as Bali, 24-Hour Fitness, NutriSystem, etc.

Fact is, there is no real benefit to the individual to losing/gaining weight or attempting to alter cardiovascular fitness. All this sort of thing does is keep the induividual’s mind off … never mind. I’ll start this as a PIT rant later.

Okay, so she’s not a pirate. What’s your point?

Please do; it ought to be amusing.

You ARE joking, correct? You’re not actually suggesting that there is no cardiovascular benefit derived from exercise, are you?

Please start your pit thread so that I can start posting cites from the CDA, ADA, HSFC, AHSF, etc. Really. I have them right here.

I have a feeling what you are really trying to ask is "will I lose more weight than Mindiiiiiiiiii(sic) in the same amount of time assuming the same exercise regime?"

Nah. It’s a given I’ll lose more weight than Mindii, even if we’re doing the same thing for the same amount of time. Mindii has a Body by Jake and no excess body fat TO lose, and plus she can only dream of burning 15 calories a minute like I do. I have a Body by McDonald’s so as far as actual weight loss goes, there’s no contest.

The machine you were using, the elliptical trainer (also refered to as the Precor - the company that popularized it)

So THAT’S what that thing is called!!!

Check your logic here, being careful to distinguish between losing fat and losing weight (fat, muscle, water, etc.).