Exercise Right!
with Jacques Courseault, M.D.

The First Step to Success: Committing to More than Yourself
How to Begin an Exercise Regimen
Walk Your Way to Better Health
How to Begin a Walking Program
Eating and Exercise: What to eat and when to eat it
Weight, Lean Body Mass and Exercise
Strong Muscles Fight Disease
How to Exercise with Disabled or Weak Legs
How to Conserve Muscle Mass During Weight Loss
How to Build Muscle Mass
How to Build Muscular Endurance
Exercise Ideas: Play Video Games!
Exercise Improves Eating Habits


Exercise Right!

Exercise Improves Eating Habits

a body weight scale flanked by a measuring tape and a variety of fruit

It's no secret that overeating and sedentary living are the most important factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic that Americans are facing today. We all have great excuses for why we don't exercise. In fact, a recent article in "Time" magazine reports on research that suggests that exercise will not help you lose weight. Yes, the biology of caloric management is not fully understood; however, researchers are beginning to show that exercise does have an effect on eating, and their results are encouraging.

Biology 101

The brain is an amazing organ that processes tons of information in the body, including its nutritional status. Specifically, the hypothalamus senses the body's nutritional status through hormones, such as insulin and leptin. Previous research has shown that people who are overweight have high levels of chemical signals, or noise, that make it difficult for the hypothalamus to assess the body's nutritional status.

Think of it as white noise in the brain. The hypothalamus is trying to receive information to correctly manage weight. However, certain molecules in obese patients prevent the hypothalamus from properly reading these signals. Thus, an obese person has more difficulty in controlling eating habits than a lean person, which can contribute to worsening obesity.

Exercise Clears White Noise

To determine the effect of exercise on eating habits, researchers measured food intake in lean and obese rats after three days of regular exercise. They found that exercise reduced food intake in the obese rats to the levels of lean rats. In addition, the obese rats reduced their total body weight during this period.

To support these finding, the researchers further investigated to determine a biological reason for the change in eating habits.

Skeletal muscle, believe it or not, also secretes hormones that help it communicate with the rest of the body. When muscle contracts during exercise, it releases a chemical that reduces white noise in the brain and helps the hypothalamus clearly determine the body's correct nutritional status. When this chemical was injected into the hypothalamus of obese rats, they ate less and lost weight. Clearly, hormones released from muscle during exercise have a positive effect on eating habits.

What This Means For You

Exercise does more than burn calories. This is one of a few recent studies that suggests that regular physical activity can improve your appetite and reduce caloric intake.

What stands out about this study is that we are no longer looking at relationships, or correlations between exercise and eating habits. Instead, we are beginning to show why and how physical activity contributes to better weight loss and overall health. I encourage you to bear with us medical, scientific folks as we sort out the details. In the mean time, be assured that you are not wasting your time in committing to regular exercise and in living a healthy lifestyle.