Exercise is good for the heart even when it doesn't seem to be doing anything for the waistline. The reverse is also true: losing weight can help the heart even when it isn't getting the daily activity it needs, according to the July 2012 issue of the Harvard Health Letter.
Many people equate exercise with weight loss. If they start exercising and the scale doesn't show an improvement right away, they tend to quit. Knowing that their workouts are good for the heart even if the extra pounds are stubbornly sticking around can help motivate them to stick with an exercise plan.
In response to a major study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. I-Min Lee, an expert on the health benefits of exercise at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, advised the Heart Letter that weight loss isn't always a given among people who exercise regularly. Some people have a harder time dropping excess pounds. If exercise isn't translating into weight loss, take a look at calorie intake. "It's because the calories you take in exceed the calories you expend," says Dr. Lee. "If you want to lose weight, you can either exercise more or eat less—or do both."
In the study, overweight people who exercised consistently and lost weight achieved the biggest reduction in heart attack risk. Exercising without losing weight and losing weight without exercising offered smaller benefits. Not surprisingly, those who didn't exercise and who gained weight were much more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and face greater risks of developing cardiovascular problems.
"I think the findings are encouraging, because they clearly show that among the individuals who gain weight, if you maintain your fitness, you're at a lower risk compared to those who gain the same amount of weight but don't maintain fitness," Dr. Lee says.
Read the full-length article: "No weight loss with exercise?"
The July Health Letter also offers tips for making healthier choices in the kitchen by explaining which oils are best for cooking and which ones to avoid.
Also in this issue:
- Lessening the stigma of depression
- What's good for the heart is also good for the prostate
- Too much vitamin E may weaken bones