Wednesday, 18 January 2012

New Year’s resolution: Exercise

We are in the third week of the New Year. Some of our readers’ New Year’s resolution was most likely “exercise more”. If you are one of them, are you still pursuing your goal? In previous posts, we reported on the benefits of frequent physical exercise, such as improved brain functioning. It also enhances our well-being. How about our health? No doubt, you might say, exercise improves our health. But things don’t seem to be that simple, as Gina Kolata reports in an article in the New York Times.

It seems that exercise is not a guarantee for losing weight, even when combined with a diet. However, it diminishes the risk of diabetes in obese and sedentary people. And in order to prevent heart disease, one does not seem to exercise very hard. Some studies apparently revealed that doing something is better than doing nothing, but that doing more is not necessarily better. Other researchers found that it does not even lower cholesterol levels or decrease blood pressure. It only does when combined with weight loss. The whole article can be found in the New York Times.

This might sound discouraging in the first moment. But the positive aspect is that apparently it is not necessary to do extreme workouts in order to improve one’s health. Rather, just doing some more walking, which is easy to integrate into the daily routine, seems to be enough in order to prevent heart disease.

This is in line with another interesting finding: Losing weight (or not putting on weight) seems to depend on other factors than exercise and dieting. It looks as if it was rather the little movements one makes throughout the day, as James Vlahos reports in the New York Times. He outlines various studies in which it showed that it is the minor movements we make and their frequency that really burn calories and that often make the difference between skinny and big people. Simply moving instead of sitting still seems to be a key factor for losing weight or not putting on any. Little activities like getting up and getting a book out of the shelf or tying up your shoes seems to be enough. Being inactive, on the other hand, seems to raise the risk of dying and is apparently disadvantageous for metabolism.

Thus, the good news is that you may not need a sophisticated exercise regimen. It seems to be sufficient to simply do some more walking, take the staircase instead of the lift, ride your bike to town instead of taking the car, and redesign your environment so that you have to move around more. Simple, but effective!

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