Benefits of Just One Work-out Session

WheelIf you’ve ever spent 45 minutes on the treadmill only to realize you haven’t even burned off the calories in one Lean Cuisine, you probably know exercise alone is not going to be responsible for massive weight loss. On the other hand, exercise – or movement – is important in many ways. Most people know that regular physical activity helps improve overall health and fitness, and reduces the risk for many chronic diseases.  The CDC generally recommends that adults engage in about 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, as well as muscle strengthening activities twice a week.  Fitting in this much time for exercise can be challenging, though, keeping some people from exercising at all. However, if you look at several studies, it appears that even one work-out session can have important benefits.   While more activity is certainly better,  just a single session can:

~Improve mood: The brain releases a number of different feel-good neurotransmitters during exercise–including endorphins, which are the most commonly cited explanation for the so-called “runner’s high.” Seratonin is also released, which is well-known for its role in mood and depression.

~Induce DNA changes: A recent study showed that among healthy but inactive adults, just minutes of exercise altered genetic material in muscle cells. While DNA is indeed inherited, lifestyle factors like exercise can play a part in expressing or “turning on” certain genes, so-called “epigenetic factors”. Exercise appears to affect gene expression for metabolism and strength.

~Provide Diabetes protection: After just one work-out, subtle changes to how fat is metabolized in muscle also occur. University of Michigan researchers found that a single aerobic workout increased storage of fat in muscle, which actually improved insulin sensitivity. (Low insulin sensitivity, or insulin resistance, can lead to diabetes.)

~Reduce stress: According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, estimates approximately 14 percent of people turn to exercise to mitigate stress. And even though pounding the pavement is, by definition, a stress response (cortisol increases, heart rate quickens), it really can reduce some of the negativity. It’s likely a combination of factors, including the influx of extra blood to the brain and the rush of mood-boosting endorphins out of it.

~Increase focus: Even short bouts of exercise, as little as 10 minutes, have been shown to improve concentration and focus. The surge of blood to the brain when you begin activity kicks brain cells into high gear, leaving you feeling more awake during your workout and more focused when you’re done.

It is encouraging to see that even a single workout session can be beneficial. A recent study on weight loss surgery patients also highlighted the benefits of fitting in any amount of exercise. It found that patients who participated in just an hour of moderate-intensity exercise per week experienced less symptoms of depression.  This level of exercise was associated with 92 percent lower odds of treatment for depression or anxiety among adults with severe obesity. You can read more about the study here.

Dr. Vafa Shayani, expert bariatric surgeon of the Bariatric Institute of Greater Chicago, spoke with us about the findings and the role of exercise in weight loss. He said, “It is generally implied but rarely scientifically shown that exercise contributes to substantial weight loss.  Those of us who pay attention to caloric balance would readily admit that a significant change in caloric balance is much more easily attained by reducing food intake than by burning additional calories through exercise.  And that is why unlike weight loss surgery, exercise alone is rarely responsible for aggressive weight loss.  Having said that, aerobic exercise helps with cardiovascular conditioning, muscle toning and body building, and improved mental health, all of which are substantiated by many well designed studies.  It is for these reasons that as physicians, we should continue to encourage our patients to incorporate exercise in their weekly routine,” he concluded.

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