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Can Heart Disease Be Prevented and Reversed?

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Can Exercise Help Weight Loss?

Overweight and obesity has been accused as the culprit that increases the risk of a number of chronic diseases including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Trimming off extra weight is obviously the hope for overweight or obese people who want to be healthy. When thinking about losing weight, people always relate it to exercise.

Exercise does play an important role in achieving healthy lifestyle because it strengthens the heart and lungs. Besides lowering blood pressure and triglycerides, exercise also reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and certain cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercise helps one live longer. People who work out for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early compared with those who exercise less than 30 minutes a week.

Nevertheless, many people are probably unware that exercise can lead to only modest weight loss. A review of exercise intervention studies, which was published in 2001, found that after 20 weeks, weight loss was less than expected, and that the amount of exercise energy expenditure had no correlation with weight loss in these longer studies. Most people in these studies typically only lost a few pounds at best, even under highly controlled scenarios where their diets were kept constant.

Considering weight loss as a “calories in, calories out” is overly simplistic. One study suggested human energy should be thought of a dynamic and adaptable system. When one component is altered, say cutting the number of calories eaten in a day to lose weight, or doing more exercise than usual, a series of changes can be set off in the body that affect how many calories use up, and in turn, the body weight.

In fact, the extra calories burned during working out account for only a tiny part of the total energy expenditure. Besides energy used in physical activity or workout, energy expenditure has 2 other main components: BMR (basal metabolic rate, the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest) and the energy used to break down food. People have little control over BMR that accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure, and food digestion accounts for about 10 percent. It leaves only 10 to 30 percent for exercise or physical activity.

For some people, exercise may make them feel hungry. There were evidences showing people may consume more calories than they just burned off. For instance, a 2009 study found that people seemed to increase their food intake after exercise, either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories or because they were hungrier. Another review of studies in 2012 reported that people generally overestimated how much energy exercise burned and ate more when they worked out.

Moreover, exercise may cause physiological changes that help conserve energy. These are called compensatory changes, which are adjustments unconsciously made after working out to offset the calories burned. Some people may slow down after a workout, using less energy on their non-gym activities. They might decide to lay down for a rest, fidget less because they are tired, or take the elevator instead of the stairs. In other words, the human bodies may actively fight their efforts to lose weight.

Remember this, the effects of exercise on weight loss or gain varies from person to person. While most people who exercise will lose weight over the long term, some people find that their weight remains stable and a few people will even gain weight. But some of these people who gain weight are actually gaining muscle, not fat.

The above arguments should not be taken as an excuse to stop exercising. Adding cardio, aerobic exercise that includes walking, running, cycling and swimming, to the lifestyle is likely to help one manage weight and improve metabolic health. Cardio can also help burn fat, especially the dangerous belly fat that raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, the most effective strategy for weight loss should involve both diet and exercise.




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