Exercise Necessary for Healthy Weight Loss

There has been a lot of discussion about Ozempic recently. People have called it a miracle and said pounds melt away. For some time, research has recognized that exercise cannot impact weight loss like dieting. However, new research has found that exercise doubles the metabolic health benefits of weight loss.  

Men and women with obesity and blood sugar concerns who worked out in addition to dieting improved their insulin sensitivity twice as much as people who just dieted. Everyone in the study lost the same amount of weight. The researchers said that the results showed that regular exercise has a “profound” impact on metabolic health.

Samuel Klein, the chief of geriatrics and nutritional science at the Washington Univ. School of Medicine in St. Louis was the senior author of the study. He said it’s “reasonable to wonder” if exercise is necessary as “physical activity doesn’t affect body weight much.”

He pointed out that exercise burns fewer calories than we expect, that it makes us hungry and that we replace the calories quickly after eating. For most people, he said, cutting calories is an easier way to lose weight than exercising. But, while exercising might not aid weight loss, it appears to boost the health impact of shedding pounds,

The researchers split the participants into two groups. One just dieted. The other dieted and exercised six times a week. The study lasted until each person lost 10 percent of their body weight. On average, it took five months. The researchers took blood and fecal samples, performed muscle biopsies and measured insulin sensitivity, fitness and overall health.  

People who just dieted had better cholesterol and improved metabolic health. Their insulin sensitivity was also significantly better. However, they were two percent less strong and six percent less fit than they had been before the study. On the other hand, the people who also exercised had improved twice as much. Additionally, they have many more new blood vessels and mitochondria. They were also 13 percent stronger and 10 percent fitter.

The study has some flaws. The study group was small. Everyone in the study was obese with blood sugar concerns, so the results might not be universal. And they were monitored closely to be sure they stuck to their diet and exercise regimen. How the results would play out in real life is hard to tell. Sometimes, people who aren’t exercisers walk a far way in a day. Sometimes, exercise enthusiasts say, “It’s cold and raining; I’m staying home.” Everyone has cheat days and lapses in their diet. When taken outside of a study setting, the results of this study might change.  

Having said that, a study from the Univ. of Hong Kong backed up the discovery. Researchers found that exercise burns visceral fat around the organs that dieting alone doesn’t. They learned that short, intense workouts and longer, moderate workouts had the same impact on visceral fat. Aerobic and resistance training showed the best results. The researchers said a treadmill, exercise bike or elliptical would be the best gym equipment to help burn visceral fat.

Visceral fat is connected to many health problems, including asthma, dementia and some cancers. It has also been linked to insulin resistance. It might be that because exercise burns visceral fat more effectively than dieting, exercise aids health more than losing weight through diet alone.    

While dieting and medication can help you lose weight, pairing weight loss with exercise can significantly improve your health. So, don’t focus exclusively on the scale when working on your health goals. Watch your steps too!

Banner image: ShotPot via Pexels

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