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.”
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.”
Experts Say These Are the Only Workouts You Should Try for Weight Loss in 2022
by Tiffany AyudaDecember 30, 2021·13 min read
“Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below.”
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.
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.
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 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 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, 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)
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.”
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.
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.
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 aHIIT StairMaster workout. In this interval circuit, you’ll work your way from a comfortable, moderate pace to an all-out effort.
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.
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.
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.
(Reuters Health) – People who get even a small amount of exercise may be less likely to die prematurely than their more sedentary counterparts, a research review suggests.
Researchers examined data from 10 previously published studies that used accelerometers that track movement to measure the exact amount of active and sedentary time spent by more than 36,000 older adults. After an average follow-up period of 6.7 years, a total of 2,149 people died, or about 6% of the participants.
Compared to people who got virtually no exercise, people who got the most physical activity were 73% less likely to die during the study, regardless of how intensely they worked out. With even a little exercise, people were 52% less like to die.
When researchers looked only at people who did light workouts, they again found that even a little bit of low-intensity exercise was associated with a 40% lower risk of death during the study compared with doing nothing at all. People who got the most light-intensity exercise were 62% less likely to die.
“The finding that higher levels of light-intensity physical activity reduce the risk of death is novel and suggests that all physical activity counts,” said Ulf Ekelund, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo.
“This is of particular importance for elderly and those who may not be able to participate in physical activity at moderate and higher intensities,” Ekelund said by email. “The simple take-home message is to sit less, move more, and move more often.”
Physical inactivity has long been linked to an increased risk of premature death and a wide variety of chronic health problems, but much of this evidence has been based on surveys that might not provide an accurate picture of how much exercise people really get, the review team writes in The BMJ.
In the current analysis, participants were 63 years old, on average. All of them wore accelerometers for at least 10 hours a day for four or more days to track how much they moved, the intensity of their activity levels and how much time they were sedentary and not moving at all.
People who were sedentary for 10 hours a day were 48% more likely to die during the study than people who moved more. Twelve hours a day of sedentary time was associated with an almost tripled risk of death during the study.
When researchers excluded people who died within the first two years of follow-up – who might have been sicker than others, explaining their inactivity – the results didn’t change.
One limitation of the study is that it looked at men and women combined, making it impossible to determine if there are any sex-based differences in the connection between activity levels and longevity. Participants were also middle-aged and older, so it’s unclear if results would be similar for younger adults.
“By reducing sedentary time people increase activity, therefore, it is likely that both are not independent factors and that they represent two sides of the same coin,” said Jochen Klenk, author of an editorial accompanying the study and a researcher the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Germany.
“Based in the results of the paper, is seems that any level of intensity is beneficial,” Klenk said by email.
If ever there was a time to up your fitness game, the arrival of the new year and the new decade is it. But after the allure of the new gym membership wears off, our sedentary habits, more often than not, consume our promise of daily workouts. It doesn’t have to be this way, says health psychologist and author, Kelly McGonigal, PhD.
In her new book, The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, the Stanford University lecturer offer new motivation to get moving that has less to do with how we look, or feeling duty-bound to exercise, and everything to do with how movement makes us feel. She shares with readers the often profound, yet lesser-known benefits of exercise that make it a worthy, life-long activity whether you’re young, old, fit or disabled.
“I want them to understand [exercise] in a different way than the usual conversation we always have about weight loss, preventing disease and making our bodies look a certain way,” McGonigal tells NPR.
Among its many life-altering rewards: the generation of hope, happiness, a sense of purpose, greater life satisfaction and rewarding connections with others.
“These benefits are seen throughout the lifespan,” she writes. “They apply to every socioeconomic strata and appear to be culturally universal.”
And they aren’t activity-specific and they don’t require you to be a super-athlete. Whether you run, swim, dance, bike, weight-lift, do yoga or team sports — it doesn’t matter, McGonigal says — moderate physical activity does far more than make us physically stronger and healthier.
Here are five of the ways movement can help you enjoy life.
1) Activate pleasure
During exercise, McGonigal explains, our brains release neurotransmitters — in particular dopamine and endocannabinoids — that can generate a natural high similar to that of cannabis, or marijuana.
“Many of the effects of cannabis are consistent with descriptions of exercise-induced highs, including the sudden disappearance of worries or stress, a reduction in pain, the slowing of time and a heightening of the senses,” she writes.
And while exercise activates the same channels of the brain’s reward system that addictive drugs do, she explains that it does so “in a way that has the complete opposite effect on your capacity to enjoy life.”
Exactly how it all works, isn’t fully understood.
“But the basic idea is that your brain will have a more robust response to everyday pleasures,” she says, “whether it’s your child smiling at you, or the taste of food or your enjoyment of looking at something beautiful — and that’s the exact opposite effect of addiction.”
2) Become a “more social version of yourself”
In a chapter on the collective joy of exercise, McGonigal explains how endorphins — another type of neurotransmitters released during sustained physical activity — help bond us to others. It’s a connection, she writes, that “can be experienced anytime and anywhere people gather to move in unison,” be it during the flow of yoga class, during the synchronicity of team rowing, while running with friends or while practicing tai chi with others.
And it also helps explain why those with whom we participate on teams or share fitness friendships often feel like family, she says. Endorphins help strengthen ties to individuals we’re not related to, which helps us build extended families and important social networks that help stave off loneliness and social isolation.
Of course, humans can build bonds through sedentary activities as well, McGonigal says.
“But there’s something about getting your heart rate up a little bit and using your muscles that creates that brain state that makes you more willing to trust others — that enhances the pleasure you get from interacting with others that often makes you this more social version of yourself,” she says.
3) Heal depression
In a section on “green exercise,” McGonigal discusses the positive shifts in mood and outlook reported by those who exercise in nature.
“It actually alters what’s happening in your brain in a way that looks really similar to meditation,” she says. “People report feeling connected to all of life… and they feel more hopeful about life itself.”
Indeed, an Austrian study McGonigal cites found that among people who had previously attempted suicide, the addition of mountain hiking to their standard medical treatment reduced suicidal thinking and hopelessness. Similarly, a South Korean study showed that when forest walks were added to the treatment of middle-aged adults with depression, they moved into remission at a rate three times faster than those who did indoor therapy only.
McGonigal says she heard many similar stories among those she interviewed for the book: “So many people who struggle with anxiety, grief or depression find a kind of relief in being active in nature that they don’t find any other way.”
4) Reveal hidden strength
Even for those who don’t struggle with mental or physical illness, adopting a regular exercise routine can provide powerful transformation. McGonigal shares stories of several women who overcame limiting beliefs through exercise to reveal a new, more powerful self.
“If there is a voice in your head saying, ‘You’re too old, too awkward, too big, too broken, too weak,’ physical sensations from movement can provide a compelling counterargument,” McGonigal writes. “Even deeply held belief about ourselves can be challenged by direct, physical experiences, as new sensations overtake old memories and stories.”
5) A boost for the brain
McGonigal offers insights drawn from research into ultra-endurance athletes and how they survive mentally and physically grueling events designed to last six or more hours.
When researchers at the Berlin-based Center for Space Medicine and Extreme Environments measured the blood of ultra-endurance athletes, they found high levels a family of proteins called myokines, known to help the body burn fat as fuel, to act as natural antidepressants and to provide a possible shield against cognitive decline.
But as she reports, you don’t need to be a super-athlete to experience the benefits of myokines. McGonigal cites a 2018 study that identified 35 of these proteins released by the quadriceps muscles during just one hour of bike riding.
Emerging research, she says, suggests that when exercised, your muscles become “basically a pharmacy for your physical and mental health.”
“If you are willing to move,” she writes, “your muscles will give you hope. Your brain will orchestrate pleasure. And your entire physiology will adjust to help you find the energy, purpose and courage you need to keep going.”
Top 10 Things to Know About the Second Edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americansprovides evidence-based recommendations for adults and youth ages 3 through 17 to safely get the physical activity they need to stay healthy. There are new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 and updated guidelines for youth ages 6 through 17, adults, older adults, women during pregnancy and the postpartum period, adults with chronic health conditions, and adults with disabilities.
The new key guidelines for children ages 3 through 5 state that preschool-aged children should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Adults caring for children this age should encourage active play (light, moderate, or vigorous intensity) and aim for at least 3 hours per day.
The recommended amount of physical activity for youth ages 6 through 17 is the same. Each day, youth ages 6 through 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity to attain the most health benefits from physical activity. Most activity can be aerobic, like walking, running, or anything that makes their hearts beat faster. They also need activities that make their muscles and bones strong, like climbing on playground equipment, playing basketball, and jumping rope.
The recommended amount of physical activity for adults is the same. To attain the most health benefits from physical activity, adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking or fast dancing, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least 2 days each week.
We now know about more health benefits from physical activity — and how Americans can more easily achieve them. The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is based on the latest scientific evidence that shows that physical activity has many health benefits independent of other healthy behaviors, like good nutrition.
The first key guideline for adults is to move more and sit less. This recommendation is based on new evidence that shows a strong relationship between increased sedentary behavior and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality. All physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity, can help offset these risks.
We now know that any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. Americans can benefit from small amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity throughout the day. The first edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans stated that only 10-minute bouts of physical activity counted toward meeting the guidelines. The second edition removes this requirement to encourage Americans to move more frequently throughout the day as they work toward meeting the guidelines.
New evidence shows that physical activity has immediate health benefits. For example, physical activity can reduce anxiety and blood pressure and improve quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.
We now know that meeting the recommendations in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans consistently over time can lead to even more long-term health benefits. (New benefits appear in bold with *.)
For youth, physical activity can help improve cognition,* bone health, fitness, and heart health. It can also reduce the risk of depression.
For adults, physical activity helps prevent 8 types of cancer (bladder,* breast, colon, endometrium,* esophagus,* kidney,* stomach,* and lung*); reduces the risk of dementia* (including Alzheimer’s disease*), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression; and improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
For older adults, physical activity also lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls.*
For pregnant women, physical activity reduces the risk of postpartum depression.*
For all groups, physical activity reduces the risk of excessive weight gain* and helps people maintain a healthy weight.
New evidence shows that physical activity can help manage more health conditions that Americans already have. For example, physical activity can decrease pain for those with osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease.
A few of my friends who’ve recently retired decided to start walking more, sometimes for an hour or more a day.
Becoming sedentary seems to be a danger in retirement, when life can slow down, and medical research has documented the myriad health benefits of physical activity. To enjoy the benefits from walking – weight loss, heart health, more independence in old age, and even a longer life – medical experts and fitness gurus often recommend that people shoot for 10,000 steps per day.
But what’s the point of a goal if it’s unrealistic? A Centers for Disease Control study that gave middle-aged people a pedometer to record their activity found that “the 10,000-step recommendation for daily exercise was considered too difficult to achieve.”
Here’s new information that should take some of the pressure off: walking about half as many steps still has substantial health benefits.
I. Min Lee at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tracked 17,000 older women – average age 72 – to determine whether walking regularly would increase their life spans. It turns out that the women’s death rate declined by 40 percent when they walked just 4,400 steps a day.
Walking more than 4,400 steps is even better – but only up to a point. For every 1,000 additional steps beyond 4,400, the mortality rate declined, but the benefits stopped at around 7,500 steps per day, said the study, published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
More good news in the study for retirees is that it’s not necessary to walk vigorously to enjoy the health benefits.
Past research has indicated that metabolic function is critical for women to prevent cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes after they reach menopause. Now, according to new research from the University of Missouri, minimal exercise may be all it takes for postmenopausal women to better regulate insulin, maintain metabolic function and help prevent significant weight gain. These findings suggest that women can take a proactive approach and may not need to increase their physical activity dramatically to see significant benefits from exercise.
“Diseases and weight gain associated with metabolic dysfunction skyrocket after menopause,” said Vicki Vieira-Potter, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU. “The intent of this research was to determine what role exercise plays in protecting women, specifically less-active women, metabolically as they go through menopause.”
Vieira-Potter’s research team compared how exercise training maintained metabolic function in sedentary rats versus highly active rats. The rats were provided a running wheel which they could use as much or as little as they wanted. The sedentary rats only ran 1/5th of the distance as the highly active rats did; yet, the limited physical activity still maintained their metabolic function and normalized insulin levels. Moreover, the previously sedentary rats saw a 50 percent reduction in their fat tissue as a result of that small amount of exercise.
“These findings suggest that any physical activity, even just a small amount, can do wonders in terms of maintaining metabolic function,” Vieira-Potter said. “This is significant for postmenopausal women as they deal with weight gain associated with menopause as well as the increased risk for disease.”
Vieira-Potter says sedentary women can be proactive as they enter menopause by:
“Voluntary running attenuates metabolic dysfunction in ovariectomized low-fit rats,” recently was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. Jaume Padilla, assistant professor; and Jill Kanaley, professor and associate chair; in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology co-authored the study. Other contributors from MU were Young-Min Park, a former graduate student; Terese Zidon, graduate student; Rebecca Welly, lab manager in the department of nutrition and exercise physiology; and Frank Booth, professor of biomedical sciences. Researchers from the University of Michigan medical school and the University of Kansas medical center also contributed to the study.