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How to suppress hunger
Vigorous exercise is known to reduce appetite, at least during and immediately after exercising, but what we don't know for sure is why. Researchers have looked at various hormones (known as "gut hormones") associated with appetite regulation and there does appear to be a difference in the effects of different types of exercise on these appetite-regulating hormones.

What actually works to keep the weight off
There's a lot of talk, but not a lot of hard data, to show which weight-loss and weight maintenance strategies are actually effective. Fortunately, an article published last year in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity sheds some light on the subject using a fairly straightforward strategy: asking successful dieters.

Exercise to Maintain
Yes, weight loss (and gain) is all about the calories: to lose weight, calories out (burned) must be more than calories in (eaten). Exercise is a great way to make sure that you burn more than you eat, and the current federal recommendation is for 150 minutes a week (that's 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week) of moderate exercise for "substantial health benefits." (Note that does not say "weight maintenance.")


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Get your exercise

walking shoes

An international study suggests that more exercise reduces your risk of death - regardless of your weight (Lancet 2017:

Between 2003 and 2010 over 130,000 men and women, between the ages of 35 and 70 and without cardiovascular disease, living in 17 different countries, were recruited to participate in what is known as the PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiologic) study. Participants' medical history, lifestyle and demographic factors, and other risk factors were assessed, and all responded to a standardized International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ).

The IPAQ, specifically designed to be used worldwide, allows researchers to assess an individual's total amount of physical activity, regardless of whether that activity occurs as part of their job, their method of transportation, as part of housework, or as leisure time activity. It standardizes all of the various types of physical activity into Metabolic Equivalents (a means of standardizing the number of calories an individual burns through exercise), allowing the authors to more easily compare various amounts of physical activity. This is particularly important because an estimated 55% of all participants reported having no recreational physical activity at all - all their exercise was related to work, whether getting to work or working inside or outside the home.

For their analysis the authors grouped physical activity into three levels: low (less than about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity), medium (between 150 and 750 minutes per week of moderate physical activity), and high (more than 750 minutes of moderate physical activity per week).

Over the 7 years of follow-up, the authors kept track of the cause of death of those participants who passed away, noting whether those deaths were related to cardiovascular disease or something else. After taking into account participants' medical history and other factors, including Body Mass Index, the authors found that those who met the minimum physical activity recommendation of the World Health Organization - at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity - were 28% less likely to die of any cause and were 20% less likely to experience a major cardiovascular event.

What is "moderate intensity physical activity?" The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that "if you're doing moderate-intensity activity you can talk, but not sing, during the activity." Brisk walking, swimming, bicycling under 10 miles per hour, and ballroom dancing are all given as examples of moderate intensity physical activity.

What this means for you

I was particularly struck by these results because the authors took into account not only demographic variables like age and education, and health background like family history of heart disease, but also the individual's Body Mass Index. Exercise is too often linked to weight loss, but this study suggests that exercise is great for you at any weight. Here at we have great resources for exercise, including How to Start a Walking Program, How to Exercise with Disabled or Weak Legs, and more advanced exercises. Get moving!

First posted: September 27, 2017