Digging for Dinner

Digging Into the Real Benefits of Physical Activity

Getting down to the facts about the health benefits of physical activity is harder than it should be. But three new studies this week and a new roadmap for change certainly set the stage.

The popular myth is that working out is a great way to lose weight. But the truth is better than the myth. Working out doesn’t do much for short-term weight loss, but it’s great for maintaining a healthier weight for the rest of your life. And what’s more, people who are more active live longer.

Longer Lives for Active Women

In Circulation, we have new data on the relationship between how active a woman is and how long she lives. The study is significant because it uses objective data for physical activity from very accurate accelerometers. And the investigators found a larger reduction in the risk of death linked to physical activity than previous studies have shown. In fact, the risk reduction was about two to three times bigger.

Of course, this study is observational. So reverse causation and residual confounding can be an issue. Still, it adds to a significant body of evidence.

On a side note, this study is the first we’ve seen in Circulation where the following disclosure is part of the abstract: “data, analytical methods, and study materials will not be made available to other researchers.” It’s now the policy for AHA journals to require disclosures about data transparency. Chalk one up for calling attention to reproducibility.

Physical Activity for Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Two new studies published in Obesity point to the benefits of physical activity for maintaining a healthier weight.

Danielle Ostendorf and colleagues found that even light physical activity might play a role in helping people maintain a lower healthier weight, compared to people who spend more time sedentary. This was an observational study using objective measures of physical activity for three groups: successful weight loss maintainers, normal weight controls, and controls with excess weight and obesity.

In the second study, Jennifer Kerns and colleagues found that six years after participating in The Biggest Loser, the individuals who maintained significant weight loss were most often the ones who maintained higher levels of physical activity.

The Prescription for Activity

Amid all this data on the benefits of physical activity, the American Council on Exercise unveiled a blueprint for connecting healthcare to communities and promoting a culture of active living. The incredibly detailed systems change map results from two years of collaborative work involving diverse stakeholders. ConscienHealth participated.

We support this work because it represents a needed change in direction. Technology and urban development patterns have long driven our culture toward lives where being active requires effort. Active lives should not be counter-cultural. Active, healthy lives should be the default for everyone.

Click here for the new study in Circulation, here for the study by Ostendorf et al, here for the study by Kerns et al, and here for more on the Prescription for Activity.

Digging for Dinner, photograph © Ingrid Taylar / flickr

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November 9, 2017

2 Responses to “Digging Into the Real Benefits of Physical Activity”

  1. November 10, 2017 at 2:55 pm, John DiTraglia said:

    The evidence that exercise improves weight loss maintenance is no better – observational – than the data that exercise improves weight loss.