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Exercising But Not Losing Weight? Don't Fret

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Krauss compares his work with the famous Nurses Health Study, which showed that women who walked for exercise reduced incidence of cardiovascular events like heart attacks. The study also showed that more vigorous exercise gave the volunteers more small, incremental health benefits. However, the study was inconclusive, says Krauss. "It didn't show whether vigorous exercise was better for optimal benefit. In our study, we'll be measuring that."

Calling the study's results very promising, Virendra Mathur, MD, a cardiologist with the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, tells WebMD, "We've known for a very long time that moderate aerobic exercise is very helpful in not only preventing cardiovascular risk factors but also in reducing weight, improving control of hypertension and type 2 diabetes, reducing osteoporosis and fractures. I'm very happy to read that sometimes you can have the benefit of these exercise programs even without weight loss."

The study is preliminary and has limitations, says Mathur. "How long will health benefits last after people quit exercise programs? Will there be additional decreases in 'bad' cholesterol levels if they keep with the exercise program? Also, we don't know much about their diet -- did they start eating a lower-fat diet? Did they start making other smaller changes in their lifestyles? Were they walking faster in the parking lot, for instance? There are a lot of intangibles that aren't addressed here."

Exercise physiologist Amy Poole, MEd, of the cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Luke's, tells WebMD, "The aerobic benefits they saw were very significant. A lot of times you don't see that kind of gain. They did very well for just a three-month study."

Vital Information:

  • Exercising -- even if you don't lose weight -- can provide benefits to your health.
  • A small study shows that moderate exercise four times per week with no weight loss improved risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, and reduced body fat.
  • A larger, upcoming study will look at exactly how much exercise and at what intensity is necessary for health benefits.

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