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Why Exercise Rather Than Dieting May Be More Effective In Promoting Long Life

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It is no secret that being overweight or obese increases your risk for a multitude of concerns when it comes to your health. 

Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and gallbladder disease are only a few of the life-threatening consequences of obesity. 

But, the solution to this problem may be different than what we’ve typically heard for many years now. 

I mean, if you’re overweight and at risk for such health concerns, the obvious solution is to lose weight, right? 

Maybe…maybe not. 

While weight loss certainly possesses real benefits to your health, scientists have explored this notion a bit further, and what they’ve discovered may shock you! 

Diet Vs Exercise: What Does The Science Say

It seems that in the last several decades, as a society we’ve openly promoted the notion that being overweight means you’re unhealthy while being thin means a person is healthy (at least for the most part). 

When you read the above sentence, the absurdity of this notion stands out quite a bit, doesn’t it? 

However, whether we consciously realize it or not, it’s true. Weight is often thought of as a measurement of health. 

But, the fact of the matter is, you can be healthy, or unhealthy, at almost any weight (within reason, obviously). 

How?

Fitness, that’s how! 

Most of you are probably familiar with the BMI chart or the body mass index. The body mass index factors the weight and height of an individual to determine whether or not they are at a healthy weight. 

Well, in recent studies, scientists have found that exercise, not diet, has proven more effective at lowering the risk of health concerns associated with obesity in those individuals who are categorized as overweight or obese in accordance with this chart.

That’s right…fitness, not fatness, is what made the ultimate difference in disease risk and lifespan! 

Now, we’re certainly not saying that health can be gained by ignoring nutrition, but let’s consider the reality associated with what most of us are accustomed to hearing and acting upon when it comes to weight loss. 

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve heard that calorie restriction and increased activity are two necessary parts of the weight loss equation. 

But, raise your hand if you know just how challenging it is to restrict calories for the long haul. 

Due to the difficulties associated with caloric restriction, this popular method of weight loss often leads to what is known as weight cycling. 

And weight cycling, or the continual loss and gain of weight over the course of one’s life can actually be more detrimental to your health than simply being overweight or obese. 

Then, aside from weight cycling, many individuals who primarily focus on weight loss alone often never reach their goal weight in the first place. 

Recognizing the bigger picture here, scientists looked deeper into the notion that physical fitness, not weight loss alone, is more effective at reducing the risk of disease and mortality.

In other words, this research explored the question: can most individuals be healthy, at any weight, if they are physically fit?

The short answer to that question (according to their findings): yes! 

Researchers found that physical fitness was, in the very least, just as effective as weight loss when reducing one’s risk of mortality due to obesity. 

While some studies show there are benefits to be obtained through weight loss in regards to reducing one’s risk of death, other research has concluded that there is no such association between the two. 

In fact, there seems to be more evidence showing cardiorespiratory fitness to be the greatest factor in lowering one’s risk of mortality, especially amongst obese individuals. 

One review of multiple scientific studies found that “fit individuals with excess body weight had a lower risk of all-cause mortality than unfit individuals with a weight in the healthy range.” 

Even ordinary physical activity has been observed to lower a person’s risk of disease and death, though not as profoundly as cardiorespiratory fitness (we’ll further detail these differences in a moment).

The bottom line, numerous studies have now shown physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness to reduce one’s risk of death with or without weight loss. 

Some examples: 

  • Resistance training and aerobic exercise have shown to reduce blood pressure in similar ways to weight loss. 
  • Exercise has been shown to improve blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and vascular function similar to, and independent of, weight loss. 
  • Exercise, or more specifically cardiorespiratory fitness, has been shown to reduce fat storage in the liver. 
  • Visceral fat, the harmful type of fat that surrounds your organs in your abdomen, is effectively reduced through exercise (even in the absence of weight loss). 

Though these findings are not indicating that we should discard the importance of weight loss, they do signify the need to increase levels of cardiorespiratory fitness as an effective means of reducing one’s risk of disease and death associated with obesity. 

In fact, a side by side comparison of diet vs fitness-promoting exercise showed dieting and weight loss to produce a 16% reduction in risk of death, while improving fitness levels produced a 30% reduced risk of premature death. 

So then, let’s take a deeper look at the type and amount of activity that proves to be most effective. 

Fitness Vs Physical Activity

Physical fitness seems to have become a term synonymous with physical activity and this just isn’t true, as being active isn’t the same as being fit. 

While it is clear that exercise boasts just as many, and in many cases more benefits in regards to reducing the risk of death and disease, it’s important to note that not all physical activity provides the same amount of benefit. 

Increasing the amount of time you spend being physically active can definitely benefit your body, but improving your fitness level, specifically your cardiorespiratory fitness level is the most effective way to reduce your risk of disease and promote a long life. 

Glenn Gaesser, professor of exercise physiology at Arizona State University, examined the benefits of physical activity in obese individuals. 

In his study, he found that sedentary individuals merely adding physical activity in the form of a walking routine incorporated in 30 minute intervals, 3 times a week, saw little benefit to their health, and some participants actually gained weight. 

However, in other studies involving overweight and obese individuals with severe health problems, Gaesser found that adding in exercise and improving fitness in these individuals produced significant improvements to life-threatening health conditions (with or without weight loss).

So, the goal is to increase the intensity of your physical activity to improve your body’s ability within your circulatory and respiratory systems to aptly supply oxygen to your whole body throughout physical activity. 

And, this doesn’t happen overnight. 

Beginner aerobic workouts, walking, jogging, swimming, or hiking are all great places to start, implementing a few minutes of easy to moderate activity 2-3 times per week. 

Resistance training also works to improve your fitness levels, as improving muscle strength requires work from your cardiorespiratory system to supply energy to your muscles as you train. 

The key is consistency and gradual increases in the amount of time spent in, and the intensity of, your exercise sessions. 

And, the more you exercise, the easier it is to increase your activity level. 

Improving your fitness levels through such activity helps your heart, lungs, and muscles work together, and effectively reduces your risk of disease and death, promoting a long healthy life…yes, even if your weight doesn’t “measure up” in accordance with typical body mass index guidelines! 

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FITNESS

Take Your Fitness to the Next Level with This Customized Plan

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Are you looking to take your fitness to the next level, but aren’t sure where to start? One of the best ways to achieve your fitness goals is by following a personalized plan tailored to your specific needs and abilities. By working with a fitness professional to create a customized plan, you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your workouts and seeing real results.

A customized fitness plan takes into account your current fitness level, goals, and any limitations you may have. Whether you are a beginner looking to build strength, an athlete training for a specific event, or someone looking to lose weight, a personalized plan can help you reach your goals more effectively and efficiently.

One of the key benefits of following a customized fitness plan is that it is tailored specifically to your needs. This means that every aspect of the plan, from the exercises you do to the number of sets and reps you perform, is chosen with your goals in mind. This level of specificity can help you avoid wasting time on exercises that may not be effective for you and ensure that you are making progress towards your goals.

Additionally, a customized fitness plan can help you stay motivated and accountable. By working with a fitness professional to create a plan, you have someone to check in with regularly and provide feedback and support. This can help you stay on track and push through any challenges or plateaus that may arise.

To create a customized fitness plan, it is important to work with a qualified fitness professional who can assess your current fitness level and help you set realistic goals. They can also provide guidance on the best exercises to include in your plan, as well as advice on nutrition and recovery strategies to support your progress.

Overall, following a customized fitness plan can help you take your fitness to the next level and achieve the results you desire. Whether you are looking to build muscle, improve your endurance, or lose weight, a personalized plan can provide you with the guidance and support you need to reach your goals. So why wait? Take the first step towards reaching your fitness goals by creating a customized plan today.

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Maximize Your Results with the Perfect Fitness Plan for You

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Everyone wants to see results when they commit to a fitness plan, but finding the perfect one for you can be a challenge. With so many options available, it can be overwhelming to figure out what will work best for your body and your goals. However, achieving maximum results doesn’t have to be a guessing game. By following a few key steps, you can tailor a fitness plan to perfectly suit your needs and optimize your results.

First and foremost, it’s important to identify your specific fitness goals. Whether you want to lose weight, build muscle, increase endurance, or improve flexibility, having a clear objective in mind will help you choose the right exercises and intensity level to achieve those goals. It’s also important to set realistic and achievable expectations for yourself to prevent burnout and frustration.

Once you have established your goals, it’s time to build a comprehensive fitness plan that incorporates a mix of cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises. Cardio workouts like running, cycling, or swimming can help improve heart health and burn calories, while strength training exercises like weight lifting and bodyweight exercises help build muscle and increase metabolism. Flexibility exercises like yoga or Pilates can improve mobility and prevent injuries.

It’s also important to consider your schedule and lifestyle when creating your fitness plan. If you have a busy schedule, look for shorter, high-intensity workouts that deliver maximum results in a shorter amount of time. If you prefer working out in the morning, find a routine that fits into your morning routine. Consistency is key to seeing results, so choose a plan that you can stick to long-term.

In addition to finding the right mix of exercises, it’s essential to pay attention to your nutrition and recovery. Fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods and staying hydrated will support your workouts and help your body recover faster. Make sure to incorporate rest days into your schedule to allow your muscles to recover and prevent burnout.

Lastly, listen to your body and make adjustments as needed. If a certain exercise or routine isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to try something new. Your fitness plan should be dynamic and adaptable to your changing needs and goals.

By taking the time to create a personalized fitness plan that aligns with your goals, schedule, and lifestyle, you can maximize your results and achieve the body and health you desire. Remember, consistency and dedication are key, so stay committed to your plan and watch as the results start rolling in.

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Muscle Strengthening Found To Lower Risk Of Death From All Causes

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Do you incorporate practices into your daily or weekly routine for the benefit those things bring to your health and well-being? 

Take coffee, for instance. Many folks enjoy their daily cup of joe knowing it can improve cognitive functioning and decrease the risk of certain diseases, even lowering the risk of mortality from all causes. 

Or, what about your sleep habits? Do you aim to get a specific number of hours of restful sleep each night for the purpose of improving cardiovascular health, even adding length to your life? 

Those are only a few examples of both foods and practices that, when incorporated into our lives, can improve our health and may even allow us to live longer. 

And, according to the experts, upon analyzing research spanning more than three decades, muscle strengthening can be added to the list of things we can easily incorporate into our lives to add length to our days!

Spoiler alert: adding just 30 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity per week can help you reap this reward!

So, let’s take a look at the benefits of muscle training (strengthening), and then we’ll look at the science and discover some simple, practical ways you can boost your health and lower your overall risk of death.

Benefits Of Muscle Training

Muscle training, or strengthening, exercises offer a wide variety of benefits to your health, so before we dive into the research, let’s quickly explore just a few of those benefits…

1- Improves Bone Density

Studies show strength training to be capable of significantly increasing bone mineral density. 

This is explained by a few things that occur as you increase the strength of your muscles:

  • Weight-bearing exercises done while standing cause gravity to pull downward on the body, slightly stressing bones and muscles, thereby causing them to strengthen. 
  • Each time a muscle contracts throughout exercise, it pulls on the bone where it is attached. This pulling essentially mimics a trauma, causing the cells in the bone to stimulate the production of structural proteins which work to build up and strengthen the bone. 

2- Improves Mental Health

Strength training has been shown to improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety. 

Some believe, as in the case of high-intensity aerobic exercise, that these improvements are linked to a release of endorphins or increased endocannabinoid levels. 

And, according to research findings from the Harvard School of Medicine, “strength training provides an opportunity to overcome obstacles in a controlled predictable environment, increasing mental resilience.” 

3- Raises Basal Metabolic Rate

When you do strength or resistance training, your body requires specific amounts of energy based on how hard you are working. 

Then, your body continues to burn calories at that rate as it returns to a state of rest even after you’ve finished exercising, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. 

In the case of strength training, after you’ve put in a particularly intense amount of work, this amount is essentially amplified as you then continue to burn calories at this high metabolic rate through recovery. 

Then, as you build lean muscle mass through your efforts, the physical activity that you engage in will require your muscles to burn even more calories as each kilogram of lean muscle mass increases your metabolic rate by upwards to 100 calories per day. 

Mathematically stated: 

  • great efforts put into strength training equal great caloric burn post workout session
  • lean muscle mass built through strength training equals greater calorie burn in your workouts 

4- Helps Maintain A Healthy Weight

Now this may seem obvious after the last point, but those gains in muscle and potential extra calorie burn kick in to aid you as you seek to maintain a healthy body weight.

Not only can you shed pounds with those calorie burn gains, but studies have shown resistance training (one type of muscle strengthening exercise) works to help dieters keep those pounds off, with a weekly commitment to muscle training activity preventing weight gain as well as keeping visceral belly fat at bay. 

5- Controls Blood Sugar

Studies have shown that as you build muscle this also improves the uptake and use of glucose within the muscle. 

Transporters within the cells of the muscle travel to the bloodstream to get glucose and then bring it back to the muscle. When you strengthen the muscle, this makes that process more efficient, bringing more glucose into the muscle thereby lowering blood sugar levels. 

For this reason, people with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to incorporate muscle strengthening exercises into their weekly routine. 

Research, Muscle Strengthening, And A Lowered Risk Of Death

As we just saw above, and as we’ve known for some time, the benefits of exercise are great, but did you know (aside from the title and intro of this article) that this benefit list includes the ability to reduce the risk of death from all causes? 

However, those benefits can seem vague. After all, how much exercise brings these benefits? 

What type of exercise benefits you the most? And, how much benefit are we talking about here? 

Well, a group of scientists at Tohoku University in Japan have recently analyzed multiple international studies, spanning over three decades, to bring us those answers. 

The studies reviewed included research conducted over the course of 2-25 years on adults who were healthy (lacking any major health concerns), with a centralized focus on 16 particular studies from the United States, England, Scotland, Australia, and Japan. 

These studies involved a large number of participants, both men and women, from samples with as few as 4,000 to as many as nearly 480,000 people, including ages ranging from 18-97.

Participants in each study did a variety of physical activities, including aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises. 

And, as the team analyzed the data, one thing stood out: you don’t have to exercise for hours and hours each week to improve your health and reduce your risk of death!

Incorporating just 30-60 minutes per week of muscle strengthening exercises proved to lower the risk of death from all causes, including heart disease and cancer, by 10-20%. 

Even better, when strength training activities were combined each week with aerobic exercise, the risk of death decreased by 40%, the threat of cardiovascular disease dropped by 46%, and the risk of death by cancer reduced by 28%. 

Another bonus? The types of muscle strengthening exercises that will allow you to reap these rewards aren’t only those typically done in a gym setting. 

Muscle strengthening activities are beneficial due to their (positive) impact on your musculoskeletal health. 

And, while those types of activities certainly include lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, and lunges, they also include practical work such as heavy gardening and shoveling.

Furthermore, according to the physical health guidelines in the UK, even yoga, pilates, and tai chi, as well as wheeling a wheelchair, lifting and carrying children, and carrying heavy shopping bags are considered to be worthy muscle strengthening exercises as they work to benefit the musculoskeletal system. 

While there were limitations to the analysis done here, such as limited data, a lack of diversity in the population of participants, and data collected through observation as opposed to clinical trials, there is still much to be gleaned from the information reviewed. 

But, this new analysis of data can serve to add to what we’ve already known concerning a reduced risk of death with muscle strengthening exercise, now giving us precise “doses” or prescriptions for how much time we should spend engaging in such activities to reap optimal rewards. 

And, as we mentioned above, that prescription reads: 30-60 minutes spent weekly doing muscle strengthening exercises to lower the risk of all causes of death (by 10-20%), with added benefits to be reaped when including aerobic exercise alongside your muscle strengthening routine. 

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