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Weight Loss, & Healthy

Oct 4, 2010

We all want to be at a comfortable weight for the sake of our health and our appearance. But isn’t our health really the most important aspect of our weight? Weight loss alone does not necessarily mean that our health improves according to a study in the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Enette Larson-Meyer, Ph.D., R.D., FACSM, directed 36 overweight (not obese) adults to participate in one of three programs during a six-month intervention: diet alone, diet plus exercise, or a weight-maintenance program (control group). The diet-only and weight maintenance groups were instructed not to change their physical activity regimens during the six-month period.

Although both the diet and diet-plus-exercise groups lost weight during the course of the study – around 10 percent of total body weight – only the exercising individuals improved their internal fitness in addition to their waistlines.

“We saw marked improvements in cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels in the individuals who regularly exercised,” Larson-Meyer said.

“Weight loss was a nice ‘side effect’ for these patients – but it’s the internal health improvements that will be most important to exercisers in the long run.”

Participants in the exercise group performed structured aerobic exercise – such as walking, running or stationary cycling – five days per week for around 50 minutes each session. These exercise prescriptions match ACSM’s recommendation for at least 250 minutes per week of physical activity for weight loss.

Men in the study burned around 500 calories each exercise session and women burned around 400 – approximately 12.5 percent of their daily caloric needs. Participants were allowed to choose their own exercise type and intensity according to what activities they enjoyed, as long as the intensity level fell between 65 and 90 percent of their maximal heart rate.

Larson-Meyer says this self-selection was important, as “some (study participants) preferred a higher heart rate and enjoyed shorter exercise sessions, while others liked a more leisurely pace – even knowing they would have to exercise longer.”

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

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