As things like whatever you’re reading this on have made us more sedentary, researchers have found that even low intensity physical activity has measurable health benefits, including the biggest benefit of all: a longer life.
A recently published study by an international team found that doing more physical activity – even something as simple as cooking, washing dishes or walking slowly – is linked with a lower risk of early death in middle-aged and older folks.
You may have heard or just assumed that you need to break a sweat or get your heart rate up to the point that you’re panting for exercise to really be of any benefit.
People with busy modern schedules may have a hard time fitting in all that sweating, especially when you add the time it takes to get ready and then clean yourself up afterward.
“It has previously been widely assumed that more is better in terms of physical activity for health,” said Tom Yates, a professor at the University of Leicester and a co-author of the paper, which was published in the journal BMJ. “However, this study suggests health may be optimized with just 24 minutes per day of brisk walking or other forms of moderate-intensity physical activity.”
“Another important finding was that spending 9.5 hours or more each day sedentary – which essentially means sitting – was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death, with each hour more above this threshold increasing the risk of death further.”
Co-author Charlotte Edwardson, also from Leicester, said the study reinforces the idea that ‘doing something is better than doing nothing,’ even if it just means standing up for a bit at work.
“A large risk reduction was seen between the least and the second least active group suggesting that incorporating some time doing physical activity, light or moderate intensity, in daily life is associated with a big health benefit.”
Living a longer life could be as simple as standing up while you read things like this, so long as you’re not crossing the street.
Gadgets and their ever increasing speed have become firehoses of information. Our nervous systems are awash in bits and bytes by the trillions around the clock whether we’re online or not, awake or sleeping. In this talk, Pack will describe vital behavioral strategies we can re-learn and re-purpose to leverage and focus upon to create virtuous feedback circles.
Pack Matthews is known in Columbia, Missouri primarily as a local musician, yoga instructor and piano tuner, and has recently added the moniker “inventor” to his credentials. His passions are numerous and leave him making hard choices to avoid becoming a jack of all trades. So far he’s keeping them focused on Jazz piano and bass while devoting most of his time to his start- up, mysoulseat.com. He particularly enjoys unearthing the depth of talented people here in Columbia.
TEDxCoMo, held April 6, 2013 at the historic Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Missouri, was produced by Keith Politte and Cale Sears. Event website: TEDxCoMo.org
We learn at school that warming up before training or playing sport is vital, but cooling down is every bit as important. We are taught from childhood that warming up is a must in preparation for any exercise. It allows us to gear our muscles up for the strain we are about to place on them and prevent injury. More importantly, it steadily increases the heart rate and circulation, which loosens joints and increases blood flow to the muscles. These all help towards an effective workout.
But cooling down is as important as warming up. It prevents dizziness, helps return the heart rate back to normal and prevents chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). Also known as “blood pooling”, CVI occurs when the blood in blood vessels expands during prolonged exercise, making it difficult for it to return to the heart from the legs.
According to many health and fitness instructors, the total cool-down period should last three to 10 minutes, or until you are ready to stop. Areas to target depend on which part of the body you trained. For example, if you have been working your legs, you will need to do lower body stretches or a slow walk. There are many helpful tutorials online.
The best way to measure whether you have cooled down effectively is purely based on common sense – if you feel your heart rate has reduced, that’s enough. If you wear a heart rate monitor, that will also tell you once your heart rate has returned to normal. There is no research to prove stretching after a session will help reduce soreness, but if you feel it helps, there is no harm in it, do so – it is down to personal preference.
Cooling down methods, including foam rollers, a sports massage or dry needling are worth investigating. If you experience any pain when stretching, stop, and consult your doctor or a physio if the pain is there the next day, and, more importantly, warm up more thoroughly next time.
By: Callum Nicholls
Callum Nicholls is a trainer at Third Space and Barry’s Bootcamp. Interview by Joti Birdi
No information is to be taken as medical or other health advice pertaining to any individual specific health or medical condition. You agree that use of this information is at your own risk and hold Fitness Blender harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.
In the world of health research, exercise is one of the few things that pretty much everyone agrees on.
Regular physical activity improves heart health, reduces your risk of cancer, keeps your bones healthy, improves mental health, and the list goes on.
But does it matter where you do your exercise? Will a gym work-out have the same health benefits as a bootcamp in a local park?
The bottom line is any exercise is better than no exercise, doctor and researcher Sandro Demaio tells ABC Life. So if exercising indoors works for you, stick with it.
“But there is some interesting evidence that running on a treadmill does not give the same mental health benefits as running outside, and it may not give you the same happy hormone boost as running outside,” Dr Demaio says.
“That makes sense because you’re not just running to improve your heart health and get the blood moving around the body and improve your fitness. You’re also outside seeing things, smelling things and getting fresh air. All those things will have an effect.”
Time in nature can boost mental health
It turns out, simply ‘being’ in a beautiful, natural environment really can benefit your mental health.
Levi Wade is a University of Newcastle PhD student studying the effects of outdoor exercise on mental health and cognition in teenagers.
“There’s a big evidence base on its effect on concentration and stress reduction. Those are the two big effects you’ll find,” Mr Wade says.
Broadly speaking, we can exert two different types of focus: hard and soft. Doing homework, checking over a spreadsheet, or crafting a pithy email all require hard focus.
Being immersed in a beautiful natural environment, on the other hand, can stimulate our soft focus. You might acknowledge the rustling of the leaves, or pay attention to the bird life.
Switching to soft focus allows your hard focus to recover: this is referred to as the restorative effect.
“If you’re walking in a forested environment or just somewhere that’s fascinating and beautiful, then a lot of the mechanism behind that effect on stress and mood is due to that environment taking your mind away from your own problems and whatever stress you are experiencing,” Mr Wade says.
“It’s just relaxing your mind because you’re not focusing on those thoughts.”
Much of the research around these benefits of outdoor exercise has been conducted on walking — specifically, walking in forested environments in Japan. It’s a popular activity there (not surprising given that 65 per cent of the country is covered in forest) and it’s termed shinrin-yoku, or “forest-bathing”.
One of the world’s leading shinrin-yoku researchers is Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki, who has been conducting research on the physiological relaxation effects of nature since the early 1990s.
“The most important thing is to make use of nature that you like,” he says.
“During our research, we found that even small elements of nature that you personally like, like plant aromas, flower arrangements, potted plants, or bonsai can have a physiological relaxation effect.”
Of course, sitting next to a potted plant for halfa won’t have the same effect on your health (physical or mental) as a 5k run. But if you’re feeling overworked, then taking some time away from the city is likely to make you feel better.
Then there’s vitamin D boost
Exercising outdoors is also a great way to get your vitamin D, which you need for healthy bones, muscles and other vital body functions.
If you have fair skin you need roughly around 5–15 minutes of sun exposure a day, but this can vary depending on the time of year, and where in Australia you are.
More and more studies are showing how regular exercise benefits the brain, and in particular, the aging brain. What’s less clear is how exactly exercise counters the cognitive decline that comes with aging and diseases like Alzheimer’s.
To find out, for nearly a decade, Ozioma Okonkwo, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and his colleagues have studied a unique group of middle-aged people at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Through a series of studies, the team has been building knowledge about which biological processes seem to change with exercise.
Okonkwo’s latest findings show that improvements in aerobic fitness mitigated one of the physiological brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s: the slowing down of how neurons breakdown glucose. The research, which has not been published yet, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association on Aug. 9.
Okonkwo works with the 1,500 people on the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP)—all of whom are cognitively normal, but have genes that put them at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, or have one or two parents who have been diagnosed with the disease, or both. In the latest study, Okonkwo recruited 23 people from the WRAP population who were not physically active. Eleven were asked to participate in an exercise regimen to improve their aerobic fitness for six months, and 12 served as the control.
All had their brains scanned to track Alzheimer’s-related brain changes including differences in how neurons metabolized glucose, since in people with Alzheimer’s glucose breakdown slows. At the end of the study period, the group that exercised more showed higher levels of glucose metabolism and performed better on cognitive-function tests compared to the controls.
“We are carrying our research full circle and beginning to demonstrate some causality,” says Okonkwo about the significance of his findings.
In their previous work, he and his team identified a series of Alzheimer’s-related biological changes that seemed to be affected by exercise by comparing, retrospectively, people who were more physically active to those who were not.
In this study, they showed that intervening with an exercise regimen could actually affect these processes. Taken together, his body of research is establishing exactly how physical activity contributes to significant changes in the biological processes that drive Alzheimer’s, and may even reduce the effect of strong risk factors such as age and genes linked to higher risk of neurodegenerative disease.
For example, in their earlier work his group confirmed that as people age, the presence of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes increases—including the buildup of amyloid, slower breakdown of glucose by brain cells, shrinking of the volume of the hippocampus (central to memory), and declines in cognitive function measured in standard recall and recognition tests.
But they found that in people who reported exercising at moderate intensity at least 150 minutes a week, as public health experts recommend, brain scans showed that these changes were significantly reduced and in some cases non-existent compared to people who were not active. “The association between age and Alzheimer’s brain changes was blunted,” says Okonkwo, “Even if [Alzheimer’s] got worse, it didn’t get worse at the same speed or rate among those who are physically active as in those who are inactive.”
In another previous study, they found the benefits of exercise in controlling Alzheimer’s processes even among those with genetic predisposition for the disease. When they divided the participants by fitness levels, based on a treadmill test and their ability to efficiently take in oxygen, they found that being fit nearly negated the effect of the deleterious gene ApoE4. “It’s a remarkable finding because it’s not something that was predicted,” says Okonkwo.
In yet another previous study, Okonkwo and his team also found that people with higher aerobic fitness showed lower amounts of white matter hyperintensities, brain changes that are signs of neuron degeneration and show up as brighter spots on MRI images (hence the name). White matter hyperintensities tend to increase in the brain with age, and are more common in people with dementia or cognitive impairment.
They form as neurons degrade and the myelin that surrounds their long-reaching arms—which helps nerves communicate with each other effectively—starts to deteriorate. In people with dementia, that process happens faster than normal, leading to an increase in white matter hyperintensities. Okonwko found that people who were more aerobically fit showed lower amounts of these hyperintensities than people who were less fit.
Given the encouraging results from his latest study of 23 people that showed intervening with exercise can change some of the Alzheimer’s-related brain changes of the disease, he plans to expand his small study to confirm the positive effect that exercise and better fitness can have in slowing the signs of Alzheimer’s. Already, his work has inspired a study launched earlier this year and funded by the National Institutes of Health that includes brain scans to track how physical activity affects biological factors like amyloid and glucose in people at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The cumulative results show that “there may be certain things we are born with, and certain things that we can’t change ]when it comes to Alzheimer’s risk], but a behavior like physical exercise might help us to modify that,” says Heather Snyder, vice president of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.
The human body is made to move, and physical activity is a requirement for lifelong health. But exercise-related injuries are a significant concern few people think about until it’s too late. Even a mild sprain can sideline an athlete for weeks, and a sports-related injury can be debilitating for an older adult. “I think a lot of people, especially those in their 20s and 30s, are interested in doing a lot of exercise but they’re not really thinking about injuries,” says Dr. Brian Werner, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at the University of Virginia.
Running, for example, is among the most popular forms of exercise in America. But up to half of all runners are injured each year, according to a 2010 study in Current Sports Medicine Reports. “I’m a long-distance runner myself, but it’s a high-impact form of exercise and it’s not optimal for people trying to avoid getting hurt,” Werner says. Also, many runners tend to overdo it. When it comes to running’s longevity benefits, researchers have found that running two or three times per week at a slow or moderate pace is optimal.
Especially for those age 40 and older, exercises that place heavy amounts of stress on the knees, shoulders and other joints are going to come with a high risk of injury, Werner says. Examples he raises are basketball, soccer, tennis, or other sports that involve lots of jumping, twisting, or quick changes of direction.
That’s not to say these activities are unhealthy, or that people who enjoy them should give them up. A recent study in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that, compared to solo exercise pursuits, activities that involve spending time with others are associated with longer life expectancies. Studies have independently linked both exercise and social interaction with longer lifespans, so it makes sense that combining the two would be beneficial. But while healthy, many of these activities nonetheless carry a high risk for injury.
Why Swimming Is So Good For You
Every type of exercise has its selling points, but swimming is unlike any other aerobic workout in a few important ways
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Scientists Have Found Water Inside Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano. It Could Trigger Explosive Eruptions. If a person’s goal is to minimize those risks while still getting all the health and longevity benefits of exercise, experts highlight walking and swimming as two low-risk, high-reward pursuits. “Unless you’re swimming competitively or for hours every day, it’s easy on the joints,” says Dr. Kyle Yost, a sports medicine specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Swimming also combines aerobic exercise and resistance training, meaning it improves fitness and strength, he says.
Walking, meanwhile, is associated with both long life and a reduced risk for medical-related expenditures, according to a 2011 study in BMJ Open. A recent study found that brisk walking is especially healthy. “Walking is an outdoor activity that can include spending time with other people, and I think any exercise that combines those two things is going to be very healthy,” says Dr. James O’Keefe, a cardiologist and medical director of the Cardio Health & Wellness Center at Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute.
Yoga also garners some shout-outs as a low-risk, high-reward form of physical activity. “It has to be done correctly and with good supervision, especially when just starting out, but I think yoga offers a great combination of flexibility and strength training,” says Dr. Steven Struhl, an orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Health. Flexibility is a “neglected” component of proper health and fitness, he says. “It improves balance and reduces stiffness, which leads to strains or injury.”
For fitness enthusiasts who recoil at the idea of a life filled with long walks and yoga, there are ways to lower the injury risks associated with more intense, high-impact sports.
The first tip may induce some yawns. But experts say a moderate approach to any sport or workout is a good way to avoid getting hurt. “Overtraining leads to a lot of injuries,” says Yost. If you’re playing the same sport or doing the same type of exercise every day—and especially if you’re pushing yourself hard—you’re asking for trouble.
Taking it easy at the start and slowly working your way up to more intense workouts is another safety measure. “A lot of people start off too heavy or with too much volume,” O’Keefe says. If you’re intent on running a half-marathon, for example, sign up for next year’s—not this year’s—and try to mix in some other non-running forms of exercise (swimming, yoga) to build your strength and endurance.
Finally, don’t neglect your core. “You get your power from your core, and if it’s weak, you tend to overuse your arms or legs, which leads to injury,” Struhl says. Pilates classes can improve your core strength. So can gym machines that target your upper and lower back, obliques, and abdominal muscles, he says.
All that said, if you’re looking for safe, healthy activities that will lower your risks for injuries—as well as for disease and mortality—easy-on-your-body activities like walking, yoga and swimming are great options.
One of the most astonishing facts about science is how universally applicable the laws of nature are. Every particle obeys the same rules, experiences the same forces, and sees the same fundamental constants, no matter where or when they exist. Gravitationally, every single entity in the Universe experiences, depending on how you look at it, either the same gravitational acceleration or the same curvature of spacetime, no matter what properties it possesses. At least, that’s what things are like in theory. In practice, some things are notoriously difficult to measure……..
Incorporating physical activity into our everyday lives, from taking the stairs to holding “walkaround” meetings in the office, is more likely to protect us from heart disease and an early death than buying a gym membership, according to the author of a major new global study. The study, published in the Lancet medical journal, found that one in 20 cases of heart disease and one in 12 premature deaths around the globe could be prevented if people were more physically active. It compared 130,000 people in 17 countries, from affluent countries like Canada and Sweden to some of the least affluent, including Bangladesh and Zimbabwe……
Previous research into the effects of exercise on mental health have thrown up mixed results, and some studies suggest that lack of activity could lead to poor mental health as well as being a symptom of it.
Exercise is already known to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Adults taking part in the study said they experienced on average 3.4 days of poor mental health each month. For those who were physically active, this reduced to only two days.
Among people who had been diagnosed previously with depression, exercise appeared to have a larger effect, resulting in seven days of poor mental health a month compared with nearly 11 days for those who did no exercise.
How often and for how long people were active was also important.
Being active for 30 to 60 minutes every second day came out as the optimal routine.
But there could be such a thing as doing too much exercise, the study concluded.
Dr Adam Chekroud, study author and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said: “Previously, people have believed that the more exercise you do, the better your mental health, but our study suggests that this is not the case.
“Doing exercise more than 23 times a month, or exercising for longer than 90-minute sessions is associated with worse mental health.”
He said the positive impact of team sports suggested that social sports activities could reduce isolation and be good for resilience, while also reducing depression.
The findings back up government guidelines recommending that people should do 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
But the study has some limitations. It is based on self-reporting, which is not always accurate, and there is no way of measuring physical activity.
Dr Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and honorary research associate, from the school of psychology at Cardiff University, said the link between exercise and mental health had been difficult to pin down but this large study “strongly suggests that there is a definite association between the two”.
“However, the nature of the study means it’s difficult to say more than that with any real certainty,” he said.
Prof Stephen Lawrie, head of psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, said it indicated that social and “mindful” exercise is particularly good for mental health – but not if it is overdone.
“I suspect we all know people who seem ‘addicted’ to exercise and if this starts to impact on other aspects of life – like foregoing social activities because one has to be up at the crack of dawn to run several miles – it might actually be bad for people,” he added.
The shocking ways that tight hips are holding you back…that you won’t believe
Here’s the truth: Most people don’t realize the cause of their problems is tight hip flexors.
The impact the hips had on the whole body never occurred to me until I saw the effect of tight hip flexors had on the health and well-being of my wife after she gave birth.
It was only then that I truly understood the magnitude of the problem.
We’re not just talking about a bit of soreness; tight hip flexors are the root cause of problems such as:
Nagging joint pains in your legs, lower back or hips
Walking with discomfort
Hips locking up
Sluggishness in day to day life
Compromised Immune System
Loss of sexual performance
Lack of Explosiveness in the gym or sports
If any of these sound familiar to you, don’t worry because you’re not alone.
Tight hip flexors affect nearly everybody, but few realize the impact on your whole body.
Again, everything flows through the hips.
Think of the hips as a barometer. The health and flexibility of your hip muscles are an indicator of the strength and health of our whole body.
And at the very heart of this is the “hidden” most powerful survival Muscle. When this muscle is healthy, we are healthy.
Introducing The Body’s Most Powerful, Primal Muscle… … That You’ve Never Heard Of
Your hips are the bridge between your upper body and lower body. They are at the center of your body’s movement.
Sitting within the well of your hip and lower spine is the psoas major muscle, one of the two muscles that makes up the iliopsoas.
It’s often called the “mighty” psoas (pronounced so-az) for the many important functions it plays in the movement of your body.
The psoas is the only muscle in the human body connecting the upper body to the lower body.
The muscle attaches to the vertebrae of the lower spine, moves through the pelvis and connects to a tendon at the top of the femur. It also attaches to the diaphragm, so it’s connected to your breathing, and upon it sits all the major organs.
A functioning psoas muscle creates a neutral pelvic alignment, stabilizes the hips, supports the lower spine and abdomen, supports the organs in the pelvic and abdominal cavity and gives you greater mobility and core strength.
When it functions well, it has the power to…
… help you achieve peak performance day after day after day.
… rapidly drop ugly body fat that stubbornly clings to your body.
… train harder, heavier and gain strength faster than you thought possible.
… hit your peak of sexual health.
… flood your mind and body with renewed energy and vigor.
Put simply, this muscle is the core of activity in your body. So, when it’s out of balance or if the psoas tightens, there are serious consequences which flow throughout the body.
And there’s one activity, in particular, that’s the sworn enemy of your psoas muscle…
Loosening Your Hip Flexors Can Actually Be Easy With the SEQUENTIAL FLOW Method
Like unfolding a sheet or unpacking a parcel, opening up the muscles in your hips requires it to be done in the right order.
Try to release one muscle before another and you’ll add to your tightness. Getting it wrong really can make it worse.
It’s why so many people give up trying to fix the problem themselves and believe incorrectly that they have to live with the problem. But hoping the problem will go away by not exercising is just as damaging.
To explain in more detail about this flow, let me introduce you to leading Kinesiologist and Injury Specialist Rick Kaselj, MS.
Rick is “THE” guy fitness professionals go to when they want to learn about the latest techniques to help their own clients. He’s given over 352 live presentations to more than 8,152 health professionals in the US and Canada.
I first met Rick when he helped me fix a shoulder problem. He was one of the few injury specialists I met who helped athletes by focusing on getting them back to training, rather than avoiding workouts.
Rick showed me what so many other injury specialists hadn’t – how to work through the right sequence of techniques to unlock the tension and tightness in my muscles to properly solve the problem.
He’s the guy I turned to when my wife, Courtney, was struggling with pain and discomfort in her hips after the birth of our son Lincoln.
In the days and months following the birth, she experienced pain in her legs and discomfort when walking and sitting. She was struggling to sleep.
In just 15 minutes working with Rick, he’d successfully unlocked her hip flexors so she no longer felt any pain or discomfort that day. She was able to walk without experiencing the nagging pain in her pelvic area. She could sleep better and could start enjoying those precious days with a little one at home.
But Rick’s “flow” technique doesn’t only help those in pain.
At Critical Bench, our Head Strength Coach Chris Wilson felt his hip flexors were a little tight (from sitting and answering training questions on facebook too much) and tried the same routine Rick had used with my wife. Within days, Chris successfully increased his deadlift by 35 pounds to finally hit that 500 pound pull he had been training for. All because he got to experience the sequential flow of movements that Rick developed to release his hip flexors.
It’s not about the exercises.
The power of Rick’s technique lies not only in what techniques are performed and how well, but in doing these in the proper sequence.
Done effectively, the sequential flow works with your body to
activate its natural healing process, improve flexibility
while adding strength and vitality.
While many of the techniques were ones I already knew, doing the movements in the right order unravels all the tissues including muscle, fascia, connective tissue, and the joint capsule while breaking up scar tissue.
Using the right sequence kick starts an increase in blood flow to the area to clean out metabolites and lactic acid and reduces inflammation while nourishing and rejuvenating the area.
I’ve seen, with my own eyes, the power of Rick’s techniques on my wife and our Head Strength Coach Chris Wilson.
That’s why I asked Rick to share with you the very same program so you too can help to unlock your hip flexors and gain all the benefits.
We’ve shot these 10 exercises with explanations from Rick on perfect form and exactly how to target that hard-to-reach psoas muscle. The video content is split in two:
The first is a Coaching Instructional Video where Rick takes you in detail through each exercise, so you fully understand why you’re doing that exercise, the best form to take and how it should feel. The second video is a Follow Along format designed so you can perform the flow alongside the video without breaking for explanation.
You’ll receive a highly targeted manual with greater depth about the psoas muscle and the effects of its shortening on your health and well-being. It also includes detailed descriptions of the exact exercise movements with pictures.
You will experience immediate results the very first time you go through the program.
Only through learning how to do this properly will it enable you to start undoing some of the damage done to your psoas and start helping the body to naturally heal itself.
But first a warning…this isn’t for everyone.
As you can imagine, this is a hugely technical field. The last thing we wanted was to overload you with too much, so we’ve done our best to distill the program to the most essential elements so you can experience rapid results.
I guarantee you’ll not find an easier program to pick up and start using as part of your everyday routine or workout.
But the findings also indicate that, to benefit, we may need to exercise quite a bit. In theory, exercise should contribute substantially to weight loss. It burns calories. If we do not replace them, our bodies should achieve negative energy balance, use stored fat for fuel and shed pounds.
But life and our metabolisms are not predictable or fair, as multiple exercise studies involving people and animals show. In these experiments, participants lose less weight than would be expected, given the energy they expend during exercise.
The studies generally have concluded that the exercisers had compensated for the energy they had expended during exercise, either by eating more or moving less throughout the day. These compensations were often unwitting but effective.
Some researchers had begun to wonder, though, if the amount of exercise might matter. Many of the past human experiments had involved about 30 minutes a day or so of moderate exercise, which is the amount generally recommended by current guidelines to improve health.
But what if people exercised more, some researchers asked. Would they still compensate for all the calories that they burned? To find out, scientists from the University of North Dakota and other institutions decided to invite 31 overweight, sedentary men and women to a lab for measurements of their resting metabolic rate and body composition.
The volunteers also recounted in detail what they had eaten the previous day and agreed to wear a sophisticated activity tracker for a week. The scientists then randomly divided them into groups. One group began a program of walking briskly or otherwise exercising five times a week until they had burned 300 calories, which took most of them about 30 minutes. (The sessions were individualized.)
Over the course of the week, these volunteers burned 1,500 extra calories with their exercise program. The other group began working out for twice as long, burning 600 calories per session, or about 3,000 calories per week. The exercise program lasted for 12 weeks. The researchers asked their volunteers not to change their diets or lifestyles during this time and to wear the activity monitors for a few days.
After four months, everyone returned to the lab and repeated the original tests. The results must have been disconcerting for some of them. Those men and women who had burned about 1,500 calories a week with exercise turned out to have lost little if any body fat, the tests showed. Some were heavier. But most of those who had walked twice as much were thinner now. Twelve of them had shed at least 5 percent of their body fat during the study.
The researchers then used mathematical calculations, based on each person’s fat loss (if any), to determine whether and by how much they had compensated for their exercise. I think they just did not realize that they were eating more,” he says.
There probably also are complicated interconnections between exercise, appetite and people’s relationships to food that were not picked up during this study and can affect eating and weight, he says. He hopes to study those issues in future studies.
But already, the results from this experiment are encouraging, if cautionary. “It looks like you can lose weight with exercise,” Dr. Flack says. But success may require more exertion of our bodies and will than we might hope, he adds.“Thirty minutes of exercise was not enough” in this study to overcome the natural drive to replace the calories we burn during a workout.
“Sixty minutes of exercise was better,” he says. But even then, people replaced about a third of the calories they expended during exercise. “You still have to count calories and weigh portions” if you hope to use exercise to control your weight, he says.