Exercise is more important than losing weight to live longer – 06/19/2022 – Balance

For better health and longer life, practice it’s more important than losing weight, especially if you’re overweight or obese, according to an interesting study on the links between fitness, weight, heart health and longevity published last year.

The study, which analyzed the results of hundreds of previous studies on weight loss and exercise in men and women, found that obese people generally reduce their risk of heart disease and premature death in s training much more than losing weight or dieting.

The review adds to the evidence that most people can be healthy at any weight, if they are also active enough.

I’ve often written about the science of exercise and weight loss, much of which is, frankly, off-putting if your goal is to lose weight. This latest research overwhelmingly shows that people who start exercising rarely lose much weight, if at all. unless they also drastically reduce food intake.

Exercise alone burns very few calories, in general, to help with weight loss. We also tend to compensate for some of the meager calorie expenditure from exercise by eating more afterwards or moving less, or by subconsciously slowing down our body’s metabolic operations to reduce overall daily energy expenditure.

Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University in Phoenix, states Joined, knows well the inadequacy of exercise to lose fat. For decades, he has studied the effects of physical activity on people’s body composition and metabolism, as well as their endurance, with a particular focus on obese people. Much of his previous research has highlighted the futility of exercise for weight loss.

In a 2015 experiment he oversaw, for example, 81 sedentary overweight women started a walking routine three times a week for 30 minutes. After 12 weeks, some of them lost some body fat, but 55 gained weight.

In another study by Dr. Gaesser, however, people who were overweight, obese and had significant health conditions, including high blood pressure, low cholesterol or insulin resistance – a marker of type 2 – showed considerable improvements in these conditions after starting to exercise, losing weight or not. .

Seeing these results, Gaesser began to wonder if fitness could allow overweight people to enjoy good metabolic health, regardless of their body mass count, and potentially live as long as thinner people – or even longer, if thin people are out of shape.

So in the new study, which was published this month in iScience, he and his colleague Siddhartha Angadi, professor of education and kinesiology at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, began searching databases previous studies related to diet, exercise, fitness. , metabolic health and longevity.

They were particularly interested in meta-analyses, which pool and analyze data from multiple previous studies, allowing researchers to analyze results from many more people than in most individual weight loss or exercise studies. , which tend to be small scale. .

They ended up with more than 200 relevant meta-analyses and individual studies. So they set out to see what all of this research, which included tens of thousands of mostly obese men and women, indicated about the relative benefits of losing weight or getting in shape to improve metabolism and longevity. In fact, they asked if someone who is heavy gains more health by losing weight or by getting up and moving.

They realized that the competition was not tight. “In direct comparison, the magnitude of the benefits was much greater with improved fitness than with weight loss,” Dr. Gaesser said.

Overall, the studies they cite show that sedentary, obese men and women who start exercising and improve their physical fitness can reduce their risk of premature death by up to 30% or more, even if their weight does not change. This improvement typically puts them at a lower risk of premature death than people considered normal weight but out of shape, Dr. Gaesser said.

On the other hand, if heavy people lose weight through diet (and not from disease), their statistical risk of dying young generally decreases by about 16%, but not in all studies. Some research cited in the new review concluded that weight loss in obese people does not reduce mortality risks.

The new review is not designed to determine precisely how exercise or weight loss affects the longevity of obese people. But in many of the studies they looked at, Gaesser said, people who lost weight on a diet regained it and then tried again — a “yo-yo” approach to weight loss that often helps. to metabolic problems like diabetes, high cholesterol and shorter weight loss. life expectancy.

On the other hand, the exercise combats those same conditions, he said. It can also unexpectedly replenish people’s fat stores.

“Obese people often lose visceral fat when they exercise,” he said, although the overall weight loss is negligible. Visceral fat, which accumulates deep in our bodies, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other conditions.

Some of the studies they cite have shown that exercise also alters molecular signaling in other fat cells in ways that improve insulin resistance, regardless of a person’s weight. “Exercise seems to make fat fitter,” Gaesser said.

The main takeaway from the new review, he concluded, is that you don’t have to lose weight to be healthy. “You will do better, in terms of mortality risk, to increase your physical activity and fitness than to intentionally lose weight,” he said.

Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves

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