Each day new research is published regarding everything imaginable—including exercise and nutrition. Although one study alone is definitely not concrete fact, it can help guide us toward new and smarter ways to get healthier. You ready for a longer read? Well, sit back and grab a beverage because here are 10 studies that will help shape your health perspective!
1. Always the optimist? It could be helping your heart.
Glass always half full? Research published in Health Behavior and Policy Review studied over 5,000 adults and found a link between optimism and a healthy heart—measured using the same heart health metrics as the American Heart Association. (1)
Optimistic individuals had significantly lower total cholesterol, lower body mass index (BMI), and were less likely to smoke. Rosalba Hernandez, lead author of the study, notes, “Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts. …”
This is significant considering even a moderate increase in cardiovascular health leads to reductions in death rates. So cheer up and find the good in life!
2. Just exercising a few times a week can improve cardiovascular health in women.
Most people think that they must exercise at least three to four days a week to witness any health benefits. While this will definitely burn calories and improve your overall health, it seems that a little can go a long way.
Research published in Circulation found that middle-aged women who were active a few times a week had a lower risk of stroke, blood clot and heart disease. (2) Those who were active two to three times a week had a 20% reduction in these diseases compared to women who weren’t active. (“Active” was described as strenuous enough to increase heart rate and induce sweating.)
Interestingly, the study found no additional cardiovascular benefits with more activity. This doesn’t mean that more isn’t better, though, because it can still help improve bone and muscle strength while burning calories and creating a healthy lifestyle.
3. Losing sleep during the week? It can promote weight gain.
These days our numerous commitments can have us sacrificing sleep to get more done. Research presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego found that missing as little as 30 minutes of sleep a day during the week can have long-term metabolic and body weight effects. (3)
The lead author of the study, Dr. Shahrad Taheri, explains, “While previous studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with obesity and diabetes, we found that as little as 30 minutes a day sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance at follow-up.”
The study looked at more than 520 individuals who had recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Participants completed seven-day sleep diaries. The researchers found that after six months, those who had weekday sleep debt were 72% more likely to be obese. So stop skipping out on sleep—your health may depend on it!
4. Decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease is as easy as eating
Looking for an easy way to help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke? Look no further than simply adding more vegetables to your diet. This is according to findings presented at a 2015 American Heart Association EPI (Epidemiology and Prevention)/Lifestyle meeting. (4)
The research followed over 450,000 Europeans—for 12 years on average—and analyzed the relationship between the risk of dying from stroke and heart disease relative to eating habits. Those who ate at least 70% vegetables in their diet had a 20% reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate only 45% vegetables.
Dr. Camille Lassale, lead author, points out, “Instead of drastic avoidance of animal-based foods, substituting some of the meat in your diet with plant-based sources may be a very simple, useful way to lower cardiovascular mortality.”
5. Highly processed foods can be highly addictive.
A study out of the University of Michigan determined that highly processed foods—donuts, French fries, pizza, etc.—are seriously addictive. (5) This research is among the first to specifically look at which foods could induce “food addiction.” It was found that people with a higher BMI or food addiction had a harder time controlling their consumption of highly processed foods. They were possibly susceptible to “rewarding” themselves with these foods!
Nicole Avena, a co-author on the study, explains the findings, “This is a first step toward identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and
6. Strength training is more effective at preventing abdominal fat.
This study, published in the journal Obesity, really stresses how important strength training can be. It boosts muscle mass, calorie burn, bone density, cardiovascular health, strength, confidence, overall quality of life, etc., and it can also be effective at preventing abdominal fat.
When healthy men strength trained for only 20 minutes a day they had significantly less abdominal fat than men who performed aerobic exercise for 20 minutes. (6) The optimal results occurred when strength training and aerobic exercise were combined.
Lead author of the study, Frank Hu, says, “To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise.”
7. Stand up! Sitting for extended periods can increase your risk of
Let’s face it, many of us sit for long periods of time while working. This has been associated with a higher risk of many diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even early death. What’s more is that regular exercise doesn’t seem to lower the risk! This is according to research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. (7)
One author, Dr. David A. Atler, comments, “Our study finds that despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, this alone may not be enough to reduce the risk for disease. Avoiding sedentary time and getting regular exercise are both important for improving your health and survival. It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and a half hours.”
The researchers recommended that we all decrease our sedentary or sitting time by two to three hours in a single 12-hour work day. It seems that small lifestyle changes are one of the keys to a healthy, long life!
8. Need to improve your health? Grab your significant other.
It can be so hard to stay motivated when you are doing something difficult alone, right? Research has found that when people tried to either lose weight, start to get active or quit smoking, their success rate was dependent on whether their partner made positive changes as well. (8) Sort of like strength in numbers!
One scientist at Cancer Research UK, Dr. Julie Sharp, observes, “Getting some support can help people take up good habits. For example, if you want to lose weight and have a friend or colleague who’s trying to do the same thing, you could encourage each other by joining up for a run or a swim at lunchtime or
after work. …”
Think about it this way: The couple who exercises together gets healthy together.
9. Improve your overall health with group walking.
Grab your friends and take a hike in order to help decrease your risk of life-threatening conditions such as depression, stroke and heart disease. A study, published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that people who regularly walk in groups have lower cholesterol, body fat and blood pressure. (9)
Sarah Hanson, one study author, explains, “Our research shows that joining a walking group is one of the best and easiest ways to boost overall health. The benefits are wide ranging. …What’s more, people find it relatively easy to stick with this type of exercise [regimen]. …The research evidence suggests people enjoy attending walking groups and appear less likely to drop out than many other forms of activity.”
So the bottom line is that if you’ve been struggling to stay motivated, start your own walking group today. The fresh air and pleasant company is good for you!
10. Early death is more likely to occur because of lack of exercise, not obesity.
We saved maybe the best for last. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a 20-minute brisk walk was enough to reduce a person’s risk of early death. (10) Simply walking briskly for 20 minutes each day can take individuals from inactive to moderately inactive and help reduce their risk of early death by 16 to 30%.
Lead researcher, Professor Ulf Ekelund, notes, “This is a simple message: Just a small amount of physical activity each day could have substantial health benefits for people who are physically inactive. Although we found that just 20 minutes would make a difference, we should really be looking to do more than this—physical activity has many proven health benefits and should be an important part of our daily life.”
It really is that simple: Even the smallest amount of exercise can help improve your health.
This research—with further experimentation and testing—makes for some interesting reading and hopefully can be applied to your exercise/nutrition regimen. Any way to help make weight loss—or just getting healthier—smarter and easier is always a safe bet! Why not use the most recent science to
your advantage? AF
1. HERNANDEZ, R., ET AL. “OPTIMISM AND CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH: MULTI-ETHNIC STUDY OF ATHEROSCLEROSIS (MESA).” HEALTH BEHAVIOR AND POLICY REVIEW, 2, NO. 1 (JAN 2015): 62-73. DOI: 10.14485/HBPR.2.1.6.
2. ARMSTRONG, M.E.G., ET AL. “FREQUENT PHYSICAL ACTIVITY MAY NOT REDUCE VASCULAR DISEASE RISK AS MUCH AS MODERATE ACTIVITY: LARGE PROSPECTIVE STUDY OF UK WOMEN.” CIRCULATION, EPUB AHEAD OF PRINT FEB 2015. DOI: 10.1161/