Healthy Byte: Physical Activity is Key to Being Healthy – Not Weight Loss

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Study Finds Physical Activity, Not Weight Loss, Is Key to Reducing Health Risks

Karla WalshDecember 30, 2021·3 min read

In the U.S., more than 7 out of 10 adults (73.6%) age 20 and over are overweight or obese, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (That percentage may sound shocking, until you realize those categorizations rely on the body mass index system.)

Many leading causes of death, including heart disease, are tied to an individual’s weight. Recently, several researchers have been trying to determine to what extent this correlation is true—especially since nearly three-quarters of American adults are at risk.

Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., a professor of exercise science at Arizona State University, describes the six stages of what he calls the “Weight Loss Futile Cycle” as (1) Desire to weigh less, (2) Weight loss attempts, (3) Failure to reach weight-loss goal or maintain weight loss, (4) Frustration and reduced adherence to weight-loss program, (5) Weight regain/overshoot, and (6) Obesity prevalence. And then there you are back at square one. Sound familiar?

“The weight-loss message is not, and has not been, working,” Gaesser told WebMD in December. “The health benefits of exercise and diet are largely independent of weight loss.”

In Gaesser’s paper, “Obesity treatment: Weight loss versus increasing fitness and physical activity for reducing health risks,” published in September 2021 in the journal iScience, he finds that “shifting the focus from weight loss to increasing physical activity and improving cardiorespiratory fitness” lowers the risk for death. Gaesser and his team believe that it’s the healthier lifestyle choices many people make when attempting to lose weight, such as eating more fruits and vegetables and getting more exercise, that deliver a longevity boost—not necessarily carrying around less weight.

Previous studies have proven that ramping up physical activity lowers the risk of death from any cause by 15 to 50%. It also decreases the risk of heart disease by as much as 40%. The benefit of regular exercise is even more drastic when the activity improves your heart health (increasing circulation, lowering blood pressure, slowing your resting heart rate). Hopping from the least-fit to most-fit category can slash mortality risk by 30 to 60%, researchers say.

But, the benefits only stick around as long as the fitness routine stays in place.

“Adherence to exercise is just as challenging as adherence to diets. I think one of the reasons is that exercise has been promoted primarily as a means to lose weight,” Gaesser said in the WebMD interview.

It’s a constant battle for reasons in and out of our control. In a July 2021 review of 149 studies that involved exercise interventions of 2 weeks to 12 months, participants lost an average of 3 to 8 pounds. The human body isn’t designed to like to lose weight, so it may slow the metabolism by about 28% in an attempt to make up for calories burned during exercise, an October 2021 study suggests. It can also increase appetite.

Being aware of the gap between anticipated and actual weight loss is important, according to Gaesser. Seeing a lower number on a scale is not a healthy goal; gaining fitness through an exercise regime suited to the individual is. Staring down at a scale can be discouraging. Eliminating that from a fitness routine may help those tempted to throw in the towel.

Gaesser’s encouraging bottom line, according to his study: “Emphasizing the intrinsic value of [physical activity] and [cardiorespiratory fitness]—as primary outcomes—may avoid repeating ‘failures’ associated with a weight-centric approach.”

Healthy Byte: Fight Dementia with Regular Physical Activity

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Light Physical Activity Might Be Enough to Stave Off Dementia, New Research Says

Karla WalshDecember 27, 2021·4 min read

Did you know the most popular New Year’s resolution year after year is to exercise more? While that’s a valiant goal, more is not always better—especially if you set such a lofty goal that you can’t stick with it … and subsequently feel like a failure and quit trying.

But you might not need to focus on going from 0 to 100 to benefit your body and your brain. Lightly active adults reduced their risk for dementia by a sizable 20% after a 3½ year follow-up compared to their inactive peers, according to a study published December 16 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

This echoes the findings of a study released earlier this year that found walking just three times per week could reduce dementia risk and builds on 2019 research that suggested 10 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day could protect against cognitive decline. So, what exactly does light physical activity look like? According to this study, it’s as light as walking at a slow or leisurely pace.

There’s no cure (yet) for dementia and its most common type, Alzheimer’s disease. So doctors are hustling to determine which lifestyle habits may reduce the risk or at least delay the onset of dementia.

For this study, a team of Korean researchers tapped into medical records in the Korean National Health Insurance Service database for 62,286 participants who were 65 or older and who had not yet received a dementia diagnosis. The individuals were about 60% women and 40% men, with an average age of 73. Each person recorded his or her physical activity including frequency, intensity and duration of exercise via a self-reported questionnaire. After 3½ years, on average, the researchers followed up and found that 6% of the participants had developed dementia.

Using these reports, the researchers split the group into levels: inactive, insufficiently active, active and highly active. In terms of dementia risk, after accounting for age, sex and other diseases, they found:

  • Inactive participants were the baseline
  • Insufficiently active participants were at 10% lower risk for dementia
  • Active participants were at 20% lower risk for dementia
  • Highly active participants were at 28% lower risk for dementia

That means even a little bit can go a long way in terms of exercise’s bang for your brain buck. (Btw, those activity levels are based on one recommendation for ideal physical activity level: 500 to 999 metabolic equivalent task minutes (or MET minutes) per week. For more on what MET minutes are, check out our piece about whether it’s better to sleep in or exercise when you’re tired.)

Moving from sedentary to just some “light-intensity physical activity is associated with metabolism, and this vascular, cellular and metabolic change by light-intensity physical activity could be beneficial in reducing dementia risk,” Boyoung Joung, M.D., a professor of internal medicine at Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and the study’s corresponding author tells Medical News Today.

That said, this study cannot prove any causal link. In other words, are people who are likely to develop dementia naturally less active because they’re already experiencing some mild symptoms? Or could other factors be at play and the exercise rates just be a coincidence—or misreported, since these were questionnaires that could be fibbed on?

“The idea that physical activity reduces the risk of dementia is entirely plausible, and these findings add to a growing body of evidence supporting this idea,” John Gallacher, Ph.D., director of Dementias Platform UK at Oxford University, tells Medical News Today. “The problem is reverse causation—that is, that people with dementia exercise less. This study goes some way to addressing this by looking at incident events and dropping subjects with incident dementia in the first 2 years of follow-up.”

Physical activity could trigger metabolism changes, improve overall chronic disease risk factors, slow cell aging and promote brain plasticity, though, so it’s possible this could be a causal relationship. More research is needed, though.

“All these arguments apart, the balance of risk is that exercise is good for you, and a little goes a long way,” Gallacher adds.

Health experts believe that more than 1 in 3 dementia cases can be prevented through lifestyle modifications and, in the future, researchers hope to dedicate time to longer-range studies with more breakouts in terms of exercise styles, time and beyond.

For now, it’s still wise to lace up those shoes and sneak in a walk, bike ride, dance session or yoga routine with a goal of working up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week, per World Health Organization guidelines.

Healthy Byte: Workouts to Try for Weight Loss

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Experts Say These Are the Only Workouts You Should Try for Weight Loss in 2022

by Tiffany AyudaDecember 30, 2021·13 min read


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When you’re working hard to get fit and lose weight, you want a routine that provides maximum results. And you don’t even need to become a gym rat; studies show that shorter bouts of exercise are more effective for fat loss. But what kind of exercise burns the most calories?

Cardio, of course, will crush cals. Running on a treadmill will burn 25-39% more calories than doing kettlebell swings at the same level of exertion, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. But your best bet for weight loss is a routine that combines cardio and strength.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html

If you’re walking or running like mad without results, building muscle may be key to moving the scale. Why? Because muscles are metabolically active, so they burn calories even when you’re not exercising. To fit cardio and strength into your workout, consider interval training, which experts say is one of the best ways to burn fat.

The benefits of interval training

Working out in intervals is one way to reap the benefits of cardio and strength, while maximizing your calorie burn in a short amount of time. Interval workouts involve alternating between short bursts of intense effort and periods of lower intensity or rest. The intensity resets your metabolism to a higher rate during your workout, so it takes hours for your body to cool down again. This is what’s known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). That means you burn calories long after you’ve finished your workout compared to doing a workout at a continuous moderate pace (a.k.a. LISS), according to a 2017 study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

“Intervals are a great way to promote weight loss beyond just the EPOC effect. A lot of weight loss comes from the mental side of the spectrum too,” says Chris Ryan, one of MIRROR’s founding trainers. “Intervals offer a great way to harness individual victories after each rep or round of exercise—and not simply looking at the workout as a whole.”

To help you find the a calorie-burning workout that fits your lifestyle and goals, we rounded up the best exercises for weight loss here. If you’re working out in intervals, do the exercise for 30 seconds every minute and rest for the remaining 30 seconds. As you progress, you can increase your time to 45 seconds of activity and 15 seconds of rest. Remember, you want to be working at your maximum—leaving you out of breath by the end of that interval.

So if you want to implement interval training into your fitness routine to rev up your metabolism, here are the best exercises for weight loss.

Running

Photo credit: Christopher Malcolm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Christopher Malcolm – Getty Images

Whether you love or hate it, running is one of the best and simplest ways to burn calories—and you don’t need a treadmill to do it. Just lace up your shoes and hit the road. Running in intervals—speeding up and slowing down your pace—will help make the minutes and miles go by quickly. Run in fartleks, which means speedplay in Swedish, where you pick up the pace every other street lamp or water hydrant you hit, and then slow down after you pass the next one.

“The best way to burn calories while running is to vary your workouts,” says Natalie Dorset, a running coach in New York. “If you’re doing the same workout week after week, your body won’t have anything to adapt to. Vary the speed within a workout, do some bursts of faster running, but also mix up the types of runs you do. Whether it’s slow and steady, comfortable and hard, or intervals, variety is the key to constant adaptation.”

“Sprinting helps engage the core and offers shorter durations of runs at higher intensities,” Ryan adds. He also notes that running slow is relatively easy on your body as far as exertion is perceived, but running fast at 80% of your capability is even harder, pushing your body even more to its limits. This conditions your body to get used to this kind of stress. “There is definitely something to be said about getting comfortable being uncomfortable on your runs, so skip the road and head to a track or soccer field for some sprints next time,” he says.

TRY a Fartlek sprinting routine: Start out with a 5-minute jog. Then alternate between 10-second sprint intervals and 50-second moderately-paced jogs. Use that jog to catch your breath, then hit the next sprint hard. Perform these intervals for 15 minutes, then end with a 5-minute jog. When you start feeling stronger in your runs, try upping the sprint effort to 20 seconds with 40 seconds of jogging.

Jump Rope

Photo credit: Cavan Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cavan Images – Getty Images

If the last time you held a jump rope was in grade school, it’s time to get back into the swing of things. This calorie-busting workout can burn up to 318 calories (for a 140-pound woman) every 30 minutes—and your heart isn’t the only muscle that’s working hard.

Jumping rope is a full-body workout. It fires up your quads and glutes to help you explode from the ground, and engages your core to keep you upright and stable as you land back down. Jumping rope also involves a little arm and shoulder action, as they remain tight while the rope movement comes from the wrists.

“Jumping rope is a great way to burn calories while improving cardiovascular health, all-over-toning, and coordination, and it will help build power while lowering your risk of injury,” Dorset says.

TRY this Crossrope routine: Start with 60 seconds of freestyle jump roping. You can jump with two feet, one foot, alternate, skip, or twist your hips. You can have some fun with this one. Next, put down your rope and do 30 seconds of mountain climbers. Return for 60 seconds of freestyle jump roping. End with 30 seconds in a plank. Rest for 2 minutes and repeat the cycle. Complete 3 rounds.

Strength Training

Photo credit: Supawat Punnanon / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Supawat Punnanon / EyeEm – Getty Images

Strength training can help you build lean muscle mass and rev up your metabolism, which starts to slow down once you hit your 30s. “The more muscle you have, the less fat you have since your metabolism runs higher,” Ryan says. “A higher metabolism leads to more calories burned and more fat lost.”

Resistance training also helps prevent osteoporosis. According to Wolff’s law, bone grows in response to the forces that are placed upon it. So if you lift heavier, your bones grow stronger as a response. “It also works on force production to maintain shoulder, hip, and spine strength, which enables your whole body to lead to a healthier life long into your later years,” Ryan says. Deadlifts, anyone?

TRY a basic dumbbell circuit: Pick up one dumbbell and complete 10 squats, 10 dumbbell rows per arm, and 10 of any push-up variation of your choice. Move right into the next exercise as you finish the reps. Do 3 rounds. Rest for 1-2 minutes in between each round. To make it more challenging, increase the weight of the dumbbell or use two.

Kickboxing

Photo credit: Tom Werner - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tom Werner – Getty Images

Kickboxing is a great way to burn calories, sculpt muscles, and get in some serious stress relief! By driving power from your legs, your arms are able to throw major jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts, making it a full-body exercise. It will also test your coordination and endurance—all essential things that make you a better athlete in and out of the ring.

“Kickboxing works your core, legs, and specifically your obliques to newfound glory by pumping up your heart and lungs,” Ryan says. “But it also helps you work on balance, coordination, and proprioception. It truly is a mind meets muscle exercise if there ever was one.”

TRY five kicking combos from the DailyBurn: Take these combos and perform 8 reps of each as long as you can for 30 minutes. Rest as needed. Play your favorite fight music and stay strong!

Spinning

Photo credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao - Getty Images
Photo credit: seksan Mongkhonkhamsao – Getty Images

Spinning, whether it’s on an actual bike or a stationary one, is one of the best ways to burn calories and build endurance. “Spinning is a great weight-loss activity that is relatively low impact and targets the biggest, strongest muscles in the body,” Ryan says of the glutes and hamstrings. “When you engage your biggest muscles, you set off hormones to produce more muscles, similar to strength training, which helps to burn fat across your whole body,” he adds.

If you don’t like running, spinning is a low-impact alternative that’ll crank up your heart rate.

But there’s more to pushing the pedal than speed. By practicing good form and engaging your core as well as your thighs and glutes, spinning can be a full-body workout. Whether you’re doing a heavy climb in first position or sprinting in second, your core is the key to spinning efficiently and quickly. And as you drive your foot down with each stroke, it’s all about squeezing your inner thighs.

TRY a spinning interval routine: Warm up on the bike for 10 minutes. Go as hard as you can for 30 seconds; pedal easy for 60 seconds. Repeat four times except after the fourth work interval, pedal easy for four minutes. Repeat the whole cycle three more times for a total of 37 minutes of exercise.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Photo credit: FluxFactory - Getty Images
Photo credit: FluxFactory – Getty Images

HIIT workouts are, by far, one of the most effective ways to burn calories and hike up your metabolism. The best part is, these workouts don’t have to last very long. Some HIIT workouts can last for only 10 minutes, but it’s only effective if you push your body to its limits with all-out energy. Research has shown that HIIT can help burn belly fat, a.k.a. the worst kind of fat that puts you at risk for heart disease and other health conditions.

Throughout, form is key. “Even though you are moving through movements at high intensities, you still need to make form paramount to avoid injury,” Ryan says. “Think less about the load/tension or weight intensity and focus more on completing the reps and sets in a sound manner and building load safely.”

TRY a 10-minute, total-body workout to rev up your metabolism.

Rowing

Photo credit: Cavan Images - Getty Images
Photo credit: Cavan Images – Getty Images

If you haven’t used your gym’s rowing machine, you’re missing out on one of the best pieces of cardio and strength equipment. Working your quads, glutes, hamstrings, core, arms, and back, you get a total-body workout that’ll have you pouring sweat. Contrary to what most people think, the power of rowing mostly comes from your legs—not your arms. Engaging your quads and glutes, you drive your legs back to pull the handle toward your chest.

“Rowing is a great weight-loss tool because it incorporates the best out of the cardio and strength worlds, with a focus on pulling and opening up the hips and shoulders. At the same time, you’re working your heart and lungs,” Ryan says. Because many people have desk jobs, our backs tend to be rounded. Rowing helps correct this by opening your spine, hips, and shoulders, Ryan says.

TRY a 15-minute rowing routine: Start with a 5-minute warm up, rowing at a slow, consistent pace. Then move up to a moderate pace (about 22 strokes per minute) for 5 minutes. End the workout with a 5-minute cool down.

Elliptical

Photo credit: damircudic - Getty Images
Photo credit: damircudic – Getty Images

Don’t be fooled by the elliptical! It might look an easy machine, casually spinning your legs while watching TV or reading a magazine. But if you crank up the resistance and work at a hard pace, it’ll leave you breathless. “Riding the elliptical at an easy clip will not do much, but magic happens when the lungs start working and the blood starts pumping,” Ryan says. Be sure to stand up straight to lengthen your abs and engage your upper-body muscles. Making use of the handles and swinging your arms will help you blast more fat and calories.

Dorset adds that machines like the elliptical are a good option to keep the weight loss going while protecting your body from extra stress: “The elliptical is great for providing lower impact while maintaining fitness,” Dorset says. “It’s particularly good for helping precent injury at the onset of for coming back to running when recovering from an injury.”

TRY working out like Jennifer Aniston: As reported by Vogue in 2017, the Friends star likes to hit the elliptical for 20 or more minutes. She’ll raise the incline, then alternate between walking for 1 minute and running for 2 minutes.

StairMaster

Photo credit: filadendron - Getty Images
Photo credit: filadendron – Getty Images

No matter how fit you are, climbing up a flight of stairs is always a challenge. That’s because steps are designed to be short so that you have to engage additional muscles, like your glutes, quads, and calves, to bring your entire body up.

“The StairMaster offers a great way to strengthen the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Working the biggest, strongest muscles in the body keep your metabolic rate high, and your body strong and toned,” Ryan says. So, climb a set of stairs or try out a StairMaster machine next time you’re at the gym.

TRY a HIIT StairMaster workout. In this interval circuit, you’ll work your way from a comfortable, moderate pace to an all-out effort.

Battle Ropes

Photo credit: GrapeImages - Getty Images
Photo credit: GrapeImages – Getty Images

Battle ropes are an excellent, no-fuss way to get a full-body strength training and cardio workout. Working at a high intensity, battle ropes will increase your heart rate in seconds.
“There is something extremely fun and satisfying about slamming heavy ropes repeatedly,” Ryan says. “It not only burns the lungs and muscles in the best way possible, but it also offers a sense of accomplishment by taking out anything that has been bothering you throughout the day.”

To use them properly: Hold one end of the rope with each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Bend your knees slightly and keep your chest up as you alternate whipping your arms to send waves down to the rope anchor. Experiment with different tempos and movement, whipping faster with one arm while slamming the rope hard with the other.

TRY this 15-minute routine: Start with making alternating waves with each arm. For the next 5 minutes, try to maintain these waves. Don’t worry about speed or intensity. Just try to endure. Try this for another 2 rounds. Rest 1 minute in between rounds.

Swimming

Photo credit: Jacob Ammentorp Lund - Getty Images
Photo credit: Jacob Ammentorp Lund – Getty Images

Good news if you don’t enjoy the pounding effects of running on your body: Swimming is an excellent workout that combines cardio with strength training in one low-impact workout. Water adds an element of resistance, forcing you to recruit more muscles to move efficiently and use oxygen wisely. Need more motivation to hit the pool? “Simply being in water around 78 degrees for your workout helps to burn even more calories than on land because your body’s natural temperature is 98.6 degrees. It fights to keep itself warm in water by burning calories and fat,” Ryan says.

You’re also using your legs, arms, and core to help you stay afloat, making swimming a great total-body exercise for building strength and endurance.

TRY our swimming workouts for every level.

Yoga

Photo credit: 10'000 Hours - Getty Images
Photo credit: 10’000 Hours – Getty Images

Yoga is an ideal low-impact exercise for weight loss. High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, and research shows that yoga can help decrease stress. Plus, yoga increases flexibility, strength, and coordination. If you’re on a mission to lose weight, a consistent practice can help you slim down when paired with a clean diet. And if you’re looking for an extra way to burn calories during your yoga practice, take up a power yoga class in a hot studio: Not only will you burn more calories while you sweat, but power moves and faster vinyasas will help you get tone.

Healthy Byte: Improve Your Heart Health in 2022

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5 Things to Do in 2022 for Better Heart Health, According to the American Heart Association

Leah GogginsDecember 27, 2021·4 min read

After a few weeks of enjoying rich meals and seasonal sweets, the new year marks a fresh start and for many, that means making some healthy changes. Whether you’re looking for a little post-holiday reset or some tips to stick to for years to come, you might appreciate some guidance on how, exactly, you can make changes that are easy to stick to. Luckily for those looking to improve their heart health, the American Heart Association (AHA) just shared a roundup of easy-to-achieve goals and resolutions that will help you take care of your ticker in the new year.

“The most important thing is to set realistic expectations and start with small changes that you can amp up over time,” said American Heart Association volunteer cardiologist John A. Osborne, M.D, Ph.D., in a press release. “And if you get off track, don’t be discouraged or give up. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes time, so be kind to yourself and realize that making a new, healthy start doesn’t always need to coincide with January 1.”

Even if heart health isn’t your top concern in the new year, you can’t go wrong staying on top of your cardiovascular wellbeing. Sadly, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And, a recent study found that 40% of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 without a heart-disease diagnosis still had early signs of a condition called atherosclerosis that put them at a greater risk of experiencing a heart attack (read more on that specific study here). You can never start taking care of your ticker too early. Read on for five ways you can stay on top of your heart health in 2022.

1. Take it one step at a time.

You don’t need to tackle all of these goals at once. Look for ways to sneak some healthier options onto your plate or find ten minutes in the day to stretch your legs between meetings. Simple changes add up.

2. Aim for lean protein.

We all know that fish and seafood are great sources of protein for your heart, and research shows that cutting back on the amount of animal protein in your routine can be a game-changer for heart health.. In any case, avoiding processed meats and sticking to plant protein, seafood and lean cuts of meat can help you keep your heart in good shape. (This list of heart-healthy foods is a good place to start if you need more info on what foods your heart will appreciate most.)

3. Get physical.

“Balance food and calorie intake with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight,” the AHA recommends. As long as you find a version of exercise that you enjoy, it doesn’t matter what it is—though research suggests that both strength training and high-intensity interval training are both excellent ways to protect your heart. Going for an afternoon walk has plenty of benefits too, so those who prefer something low-impact are in good shape.

4. Give yourself a break.

Stress can be tough on the heart. Whether you have a pet whose presence helps you relax or a walking path that helps you clear your head, giving yourself time to enjoy the things that relax you can make a big difference. Try meditation if you’re looking for a calming activity to add to your routine.

5. Make a plan.

You don’t have to meal prep every week if that’s not your style—but you should think about meals and snacks ahead of time if you want to set yourself up for success, the AHA says. When you’re making your next big grocery list, think about adding heart-healthy items like anti-inflammatory foods and whole grains to your cart. Or, if you’d like to start meal planning for the week but need some inspiration, look to simple ideas like this meal plan for beginners.

Bottom Line

You don’t have to center healthy changes around a new year’s resolution this year. Instead, focus on simple, manageable goals that you can take on day by day. Adding heart-healthy ingredients to your meals and taking care of yourself the best you can are both simple, effective ways to stay healthy in the new year.