EXERCISE
October 29, 2008

Small Changes, Huge Effects

Two new studies paint a vivid picture of just how valuable to your health and mood a little exercise can be.

Two recent studies have shown that even small amounts of exercise are beneficial not only to your health, but to your spirit. While the message is not new, what is noteworthy is how little exercise is required to make a substantial change in your metabolism and mood.

Organized training or exercise is good for you. Most people know this. But it's not for everyone. Some people can't fit a fixed program into their schedule. Others may lead a more disorganized life. And many get frustrated by their inability to consistently exercise and wonder why they should even bother.

They should bother. Exercise is good medicine, even in small doses.

Patients who reported exercising for as little as sixty minutes a week also said they had a better overall quality of life and had an easier time performing daily tasks than did patients who did not exercise.

A study done at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and presented at the September, 2008 American Physiological Society Intersociety Meeting shows how dramatically exercise affects metabolism, particularly of the overweight. In it, five obese women first ate a high calorie meal, then, in a second session, the women ate the same meal and afterward, exercised for 90 minutes to burn off some of the calories from the meal. After each session, the participants had aspects of their fat metabolism measured — fatty acid oxidation, fat storage in muscles, etc. Just that one exercise session was enough to considerably alter fat metabolism, making the calories from the meal less likely to be stored as fat.

In addition to this study of how exercise alters how we metabolize food, a second study shows that even small amounts of exercise make you feel better. Who doesn't want to feel better?

Researchers at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center of Duke University Medical Center examined the written responses of roughly 1,200 individuals entering the center's weight loss program. Patients who reported exercising for as little as sixty minutes a week also said they had a better overall quality of life and had an easier time performing daily tasks than did patients who did not exercise. While all the patients were, on average, 100 pounds overweight, Dr. Martin Binks, research director of the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, thinks that the findings would also apply to people with more svelte physiques.

"These folks were not reporting high levels of activity yet they still felt better,"Dr. Binks said. "This supports what we've been teaching for years — no amount of exercise is too little to have an impact. And it's beneficial no matter what you weigh. The benefits of exercise are not just limited to appearance and muscle tone. Exercise makes people feel better about themselves and function better."

Dr. Binks presented his findings at the Obesity Society's October 2008 Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

Most people can fit some exercise into their life. It doesn't have to be on a fixed or rigid schedule. When you have chances, take advantage of some of them. Depending on your condition, this could include any sporting activity, cleaning your house, working on your car or a brisk walk. Don't get discouraged at missed opportunities. When it comes to exercise, more may be better, but some is much better than none at all.

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