What is better for health, losing weight or exercising?

A new study published in the scientific journal iScience says that for people with obesity, letting go of a sedentary lifestyle and exercising is more important than simply losing weight. The two things together, even better, of course. However, it is worth noting that losing weight on a diet but without exercise does not generate the same health benefits as exercising, even if it does not result in weight loss.. After all, physical activity increases longevity due to benefits such as the improvement of various systems in our body, which lead to a reduction in the risk of heart disease and premature death. To explain the study, the Me Athlete talked with the endocrinologist and sports doctor Ricardo Oliveira.

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Being physically active contributes to the improvement of several health parameters — Photo: Istock

This study, published by a group of researchers in Arizona, USA, is an interesting review of the relationships between physical fitness, weight, heart health and longevity. In the survey, the results of several previous studies on weight loss and exercise in men and women were analyzed. It was concluded, then, that individuals with obesity tend to reduce the risk of having heart disease and premature death from regular physical exercise, which is much more effective than weight loss itself.

This is because in most studies on obesity aimed at weight loss, the results do not lead to a reduction in cardiovascular mortality due to little weight loss even with medications and, mainly, because this weight loss is hardly sustained.

On the other hand, the benefits of physical activity go far beyond weight loss. Several cardiometabolic risk parameters can be improved through your regular practice, such as:

  • Improved glycemic profile;
  • Improved lipid profile;
  • Improvement in systemic inflammation markers;
  • Cardiovascular improvement;
  • Reduced risk of premature death.

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– All these factors mentioned above increase longevity. So, making an analogy with a medicine, physical activity can only have countless benefits in a pill that weight loss itself cannot. The recent study showed that physical activity modifies the expression of more than five thousand molecules in our body. Thus, the benefit from physical exercise is multifactorial, as it promotes the improvement of a series of cardiometabolic risk factors, such as glucose and lipid profile, insulin resistance, laboratory parameters of systemic inflammation, improvement in blood pressure and, above all, the improvement of cardiorespiratory capacity – explains Ricardo Oliveira.

According to Ricardo Oliveira, in the study, a critical analysis was made on several numbers that show that most treatments aimed at obesity end up not being successful, so the yo-yo effect, in which there is an alternation between weight loss and weight regain , ends up being the rule for millions of Americans. AND the study proposes a new approach to the treatment of obesity, centered on improving the level of physical activity, regardless of whether this achieves weight loss or not.. Briefly, it can be said that the main question that came up in the study was: if someone is overweight or obese, is it better for their health to lose a few pounds or become physically active? And the answer that came up was that it’s better to exercise and be physically active than to simply lose weight.

– The article makes a critical analysis and brings a series of results from other studies, and even in cases where obesity was successfully treated, the reduction in cardiovascular risk in most studies was not linked to the presence of weight lost or the amount of lost weight. Thus, it is hypothesized that the role of the physical exercise, by improving cardiorespiratory capacity, has a protective function in the treatment of obesity, whether or not it is linked to weight loss. Remembering that most studies with physical activity promote little or no weight loss. Therefore, the authors suggest that the benefit of physical exercise reducing the cardiovascular risk of obesity is not linked to physical exercise causing weight loss – points out the endocrinologist and sports physician.

Regarding the treatment of obesity, Ricardo emphasizes that it is necessary to make a critical analysis of the study, it is important, yes, that patients with obesity achieve weight loss. Weight loss by itself also improves a number of other cardiometabolic risk factors, such as insulin resistance, blood pressure, visceral fat concentration, and the osteoarticular system..

– It is important to understand that weight loss in patients who are overweight, that is, overweight or obese, is indeed very welcome. What this study brings is that perhaps we should look not only at weight loss, but also at levels of sedentary lifestyle, encouraging the practice of physical activity. The treatment of obesity must be multifactorial, involving diet, physical activity, use of medications and, in the most severe cases, even bariatric surgery. And it’s important to understand that weight loss is very important, however, quitting being sedentary and engaging in physical activity is as important or more than weight loss itself – points.

So it’s not about one or the other. Also according to Ricardo Oliveira, the most important message of the study in question is the approach of doctors to their patients with obesity: they should encourage and praise whenever the patient seeks physical activity, even if this has not brought weight loss per se.

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Regular physical practice and longevity

Exercising is more important to treating obesity than weight loss itself. — Photo: iStock

According to the research, losing weight on a diet, but without exercise, does not generate the same health benefits as exercising, even without losing weight. But, after all, why? Ricardo Oliveira explains that a major dilemma/ghost/obstacle in the treatment of obesity comes from the statistic that 90% of patients who lose weight with treatment, whatever it is, end up regaining the lost weight at some point.

– Perhaps this is the major limitation of studies on obesity: they do not show a reduction in cardiovascular risk, for the most part, because weight loss in general in the studies is mild, at most moderate. But the main thing concerns the fact that this weight loss, in addition to being small, is not sustained in the vast majority of cases – says the professional.

Therefore, it is increasingly necessary to encourage people, whether overweight or not, to engage in physical activity, to move beyond the threshold of sedentary lifestyles. In the end, physical activity is the “medication” with the best cost-benefit profile, which can be done at any time of the day, anywhere, without having to spend money for it, since it can be practiced in public places outdoors, and the benefits are numerous.

According to scientific literature, regular physical exercise is able to prevent and improve at least 26 types of diseases. So, this is our main standard of conviction: in one shot, you can improve a series of systems and organs in your body from the heart, respiratory, metabolic and even mental health – emphasizes the endocrinologist.

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Pilates floor obesity woman I athlete — Photo: Istock Getty Images

Source: Ricardo de Andrade Oliveira he is an endocrinologist and sports doctor, former professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and coordinator of the Department of Associated Diseases of the Brazilian Association for the Study of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome (Abeso).

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