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Work it Out

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Most WLR members know that taking more exercise and being active every day is crucial when it comes to losing weight – and equally importantly, keeping it off.

This month, the medical journals have included some more unusual studies looking at different aspects of exercise in terms of health and well-being.

First up, scientists from Brunel University have clarified what many experts have known for years – that thin people still need to exercise regularly in order to stay healthy. Researchers looked at levels of ‘bad’ or LDL cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, and exercise habits in three groups of people – those who were slim and exercised, those who were slim but did no exercise, and those who were obese but did no exercise. The results showed that levels of bad cholesterol were high and almost identical in both the slim and obese people who took no exercise.

Dr Gary O’Donovan who led the study said, “Many people, especially slim people, believe that the only benefit that can be achieved from exercising is weight loss. This is not the case. Our study suggests that slim people need to exercise as much as others in order to stay healthy and keep LDL cholesterol in check.”

Meanwhile, a study of more than 12,000 runners found that, despite running miles every week, over time those who didn’t increase the amount of exercise they took still gained weight as they get older.

The researchers, who published their findings in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, say that in theory, even people who exercise vigorously must still significantly increase the amount of activity they do as they get older in order to compensate for the expected weight gain associated with ageing. This is unachievable though for most people and so a slight reduction in calorie intake – for example, skipping one biscuit a day – is often more practical.

Finally, a survey carried out by the US Federal Government has shown that older women who regularly go to church are more likely to exercise than those who are non-religious or attend infrequently! Although a link between religion and exercise wasn’t found for men or younger women, the researchers suggest religious beliefs or health programmes sponsored by the church might encourage older women to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Other health experts, however, are sceptical about promoting a link between religion and fitness for fear of alienating non-religious people.

WLR says:

These three very different pieces of research highlight the importance of exercise for everyone – regardless of how they chose to spend their leisure time or whether they are slim, overweight or already extremely fit.

Taking part in sport or getting physically active helps to burn off excess calories so you lose weight, and then helps you to maintain that weight loss. Exercise also helps to reduce the risk of many health problems, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.

For good health, everyone should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity five times a week. In the meantime, remember to check with your GP before starting a new exercise programme, particularly if you haven't exercised for some time.

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