The Reason for Exercise


If what you eat matters more than how much you exercise when it comes to weight loss, do you still need to exercise?

Absolutely. Even if the scale doesn’t budge, you’ll feel better, live longer and be happier.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition reminds us that, for children and adults, the foods we choose daily determine our weight. But that’s no reason to give up your time on the treadmill. 

An in-depth study on children in Ecuador compared the lifestyles, diets and body compositions of children who live in rural areas to other children living in towns. They found, not surprisingly, that the rural children who run, play and scour the area for food were leaner and more active than the town children. Moving to town meant added weight due to the change in diet.

Researcher Sam Urlacher, an assistant professor of anthropology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has been studying the Shuar people in the Amazonian Ecuador for some time. He tracked the body compositions and energy expenditure of 77 children between the ages of 4 and 12. 

The children in town ate far more meat and dairy products than rural children, as well as white rice and candy, and they moved less. His conclusion? How much children eat influences their body weight more than how much they move. 

So why is regular exercise so important? Being healthy isn’t all about the number on the scale. Here are seven reasons to exercise:

No. 1: It can help control weight gain and maintain weight loss.

No. 2: It combats health conditions and diseases, including strokes, many types of cancer, high blood pressure, anxiety and arthritis, to name a few.

No. 3: It improves your mood. Endorphins in our brains are stimulated, which makes us feel happier, more relaxed and less anxious.

No. 4: It boosts energy by delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissues and helps the cardiovascular system to work more efficiently. 

No. 5: It promotes better sleep.

No. 6: It puts the spark back into your sex life by enhancing arousal, improving energy levels and increasing confidence about physical appearance.

No. 7: It can be fun, helping us unwind and connect with friends. 

To maintain weight, we need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. (To lose weight, they increase the amount of moderate activity to 300 minutes or more a week.) In addition, strength training exercises are recommended at least two times a week. Whether you spread those times throughout the day or all at once isn’t critical. What matters is just to be active

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. .

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