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article imageEssential Science: Physical activity is better than weight loss

By Tim Sandle     Jun 11, 2018 in Science
New research has found that for those with coronary heart disease that physical activity is more important weight loss in terms of life expectancy following diagnosis of the disease.
The research is based on a study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The researchers conclude that the most important message for overweight individuals who have heart disease is not to stop exercising, even if a weight goal has been achieved or if the exercising does not seem to result in weight loss.
The findings are based on a study of 3,307 people (of which 1,038 were women and 2,268 were men). Each had been medically assessed as suffering from with coronary heart disease. The data relating to the study population was drawn from the HUNT (which is the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study). Data was drawn at different time points, specifically 1985, 1996, 2007, and 2014.
Photograph of a heart model  with position of a persistent ductus arteriosus drawn in between aorta ...
Photograph of a heart model, with position of a persistent ductus arteriosus drawn in between aorta and pulmonary artery.
Wikipedia file
The scientists assessed the hazard ratio for all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality according to changes in body mass index and physical activity. The assessment was made using a Cox proportional hazards regression model, with adjustments made for age, smoking, blood pressure, diabetes, alcohol, and self-reported health. Such proportional hazards models are a class of survival models in statistics and survival models relate the time that passes before some event occurs to one or more covariates that may be associated with that quantity of time. The model is commonly used in medical research.
During the time period of the study there were 1,493 deaths across the 30-year period. Of these 55 percent were the result of coronary heart disease, with the average death occurring at 15.7 years). Importantly, the research showed no mortality risk reductions associated with weight loss in individuals with coronary heart disease. Sustained physical, however, was associated with a substantial risk reduction in mortality.
Screen Capture
In other words, the study found that people who are physically active live longer than those who are not. Moreover, sustained physical activity undertaken over time was associated with a substantially lower mortality risk.
According to lead researcher Dr. Trine Moholdt: “Even being somewhat active is better than being inactive, but patients have to maintain the activity level. Physical activity is perishable - if you snooze you lose its benefits.”
She goes on to recommend that people to get rid of their bathroom scale. It is more important to exercise than to become fixated on small variations in weight gain or loss. It also strands that body composition changes through exercise and that muscles weigh more than fat, leading some people who begin exercising to become discouraged.
The research has been reported to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The research paper is titled “Sustained Physical Activity, Not Weight Loss, Associated With Improved Survival in Coronary Heart Disease.”
Standing, not sitting
In relation health news, another way to improve fitness is with the use of standing desks, which are common in some office environments. These are designed to help address the modern malaise of the sedentary lifestyle. A related question is whether there is any benefit from having standing desks in classrooms?
Using the LifeSpan treadmill desk  adding a second screen connected to my laptop.
Using the LifeSpan treadmill desk, adding a second screen connected to my laptop.
David Silverberg
Researchers from University of Wisconsin at Madison have taken a look at this, and a study was run involving one hundred students from Shorewood's Atwater Elementary School. Safco Products donated the desks and each student in the test classroom spent a semester using the desks. To assess effectiveness, each student was equipped with a fitness tracker. Additional tests were run to measure the cognitive focus of each student.
The research outcome was that the students were found to be more active during the day and at home. In addition, the younger students showed better concentration and focus during lessons.
Essential Science
This artist’s concept obtained from NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft as it approaches Pluto ...
This artist’s concept obtained from NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft as it approaches Pluto and its largest moon, Charon on July 7, 2015
Handout, NASA/AFP/File
This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we discovered that methane ice dunes have been detected on the surface of Pluto, by NASA spacecraft. The structures offer a new insight into the dwarf planet and with the differences in planetary structures within our solar system
The week before we outlined a new study that indicated that consuming two ounces of tree nuts per day, in place of carbohydrates, can improve blood sugar level control and blood lipids in those with type 2 diabetes.
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