Monday, July 26, 2010

MORE* Reasons to BIKE and WALK

I love it when new studies come out that reinforce what I already have been telling patients! Today, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health was published with the illustrious title: Bicycle riding, walking, and weight gain in premenopausal women. Basically, they found that YOUNG women-less than age 50, give or take- (yes, at 44, I still count as "young") who either walked briskly or bicycled had less weight gain than those who did not.

On the one hand, this seems like a no-brainer. Those who exercised more gained less weight. Where's the shock?
However, there is more to it, and I think this is is an interesting study. It derives from a large study (over 100,000 participants) of female nurses aged 25-42 in 1989, and follows them over 16 years. Sadly, despite their medical knowledge, they ALL gained weight in this timeframe, with an average gain of close to 20 pounds. Remember, that's barely over a pound per year, so it wasn't dramatic as it happened, but this is why we've got to look at the big picture!

The good news is that this study does document that small increases in activity- specifically adding even 5 minutes per day of bicycling (stationary or outdoor) or 30 minutes of brisk walking- will decrease weight gain. Obviously, if you are going for weight LOSS or weight maintenance, you've got to up the amount or intensity (and ultimately, calories OUT must be greater than calories IN.)

The best take home point of this study is that if you can make a lifestyle change such as BIKING TO WORK instead of driving (or biking with the kids to school instead of driving) then "bicycling could then be an unconscious form of exercise because the trip's destination, and not the exercise, could be the goal."

BOTTOM LINE: Find ways to get moving MORE in your daily life, and avoid that annual 1-2 pound weight gain!
(*See "MORE" strategies for weight loss in the January 2010 posts)

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