“Scientists have discovered the best exercise to help people get healthy and lose weight”. As you can imagine, this article caught my eye this morning. The myth that research can “discover the best” of anything, much less exercise, keeps these headlines alive in the media. Subliminally we can be bombarded with broad sweeping statements and recommendations about exercise for weight loss and health. The simple act of skimming the news or social media can leave us more confused than motivated.
Because you are a savvy fitness consumer however, I know you read between the headlines. This study is actually very interesting, but far from a discovery of the best exercise to lose weight and get healthy!
The study was published in the Journal Physiological Reports in December 2016. The actual title was: The impact of exercise intensity on whole body and adipose tissue metabolism during energy restriction in sedentary overweight men and postmenopausal women. Not quite as catchy, huh?!
Here is the info:
- The study involved 38 men and women, average age of 52 years old. It is nice that it was not on college students and it was a mix of men and women. Keep in mind, 38 people in one three-week study do not discover anything. The data simply adds to our understanding.
- Two groups, one exercised at 50% and one at 70% measured maximal exercise capacity. Both groups exercised on a treadmill five times a week for three weeks, for the amount of time it took them to burn 400 calories at that exercise level (burning a total of 2000 extra calories a week). Both groups reduced their calorie intake by 5000 calories a week.
- Each group lost about the same amount of weight (no statistical difference).
- The study actually looked at what happened in the fat cells of these participants. Both groups improved insulin sensitivity, lipid profiles, and markers of inflammation.
The take away here is that you have options. You can do a high intensity shorter duration session or a lower intensity longer duration. Both will add to weight loss and improve cell function. (Despite the “fat burning” programs on most machines, lower duration is not better for weight /fat loss. This too is a myth.) They study did not mention the difference between the time the two groups had to exercise to burn those 400 calories. My estimate it would be about 10-15 minutes extra. Other studies have found that calorie burning can be broken up through the day, and actually may add to more health benefits. So you might walk moderately for 30 minutes in the morning and then do another 15 min walk at lunchtime. The great news is that exercise does not need to be hard to get the benefits!!! Something IS better than nothing!
This study just looked at cardiovascular exercise. Remember, it is important to strive for a balance of time spent between strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Each provide different benefits and cannot be combined very well. If you are missing strength training in your exercise minutes, you are missing out.
Keep reading between the headlines and learning about what works best for you. Although scientists did NOT discover the BEST exercise for weight loss and health, we do have more evidence to keep moving!
Keep Moving, Be Well,
Please share these posts with anyone you know interested in losing weight with or without weight loss surgery. Click here to learn more about the UMass Memorial Weight Center
These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.