So while Richard Simmons may be AWOL, his ideas are still good ones today.
Exercise has many benefits. One cannot forget one huge benefit of exercise, which is the loss of fat and particularly abdominal fat. Exercise is a critical factor in reducing the size of fat cells around your abdomen, the so-called visceral fat. This is the fat that gives men their beer bellies and women an apple shape. It is also the type of fat that accumulates within your abdominal organs and liver, contributing to inflammation, insulin resistance and diabetes. Plus, it’s associated with metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health markers that significantly increases your risk of heart disease as well as diabetes.
We now know that the size of these fat cells, as well as the number, is directly related to your risk of developing diabetes, regardless of your weight. Simply cutting calories won’t shrink those cells; you must add exercise to the equation. That’s what researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, North Carolina, found when they studied three groups of women. All cut 2,800 calories a week, either through dieting alone or through a combination of dieting and exercise.
Both exercise groups burned 400 calories a week through walking and shrank their visceral fat cell size by 18 percent; the dieters, who reduced their body fat, weight, and waist and hip measurements exactly as much as the diet and exercisers, saw no change in the size of those fat cells. A similar study found that while diet alone and diet plus exercise reduced total and abdominal fat in overweight women to the same degree, only exercise reduced blood levels of chronic inflammation markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook other obvious benefits of exercise, like the fact the exercise makes you stronger! Exercise your arms, and carrying groceries becomes easy. Exercise your legs, and stairs become a non-issue. You may not be able to see it when you put on a bathing suit, but as little as two to four weeks of weight training can create the type of microscopic molecular changes in your body’s production of hormones – including growth hormone and other chemicals, as well as proteins related to muscle growth – that contribute to muscle repair and strengthening. Researchers have even seen significant improvements in as few as four workouts.
This is critical because the more muscle you have, the better your cells use insulin and take in glucose. Those two factors play a major role in inflammation, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, and are behind many of the health-related benefits of exercise and its ability to keep you feeling young as you age.
As you build up your muscles your muscle tissue burns more calories – even when you’re at rest- than body fat does. 10 pounds of muscle will burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat will burn 20 just calories.
So no matter how you look at it, exercising has so many benefits, obvious or not, that you need to be trying to fit a little bit in every day.
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