man walking looking at phone

New Exercise Research on WHR, Daily Steps and Added Sugar

There are many ways that you can try to make a positive impact on your health and well-being. But which of those changes are worthwhile and will result in the most bang for your buck? We know most people in the United States still can’t seem to manage or find enough time to exercise. The number one reason for not exercising is “lack of time”. We know the best exercise prescription and nutrition plan will not elicit change if consistency is lacking.

This review article suggests monitoring three specific areas: girth measurements, daily steps, and added sugar will prevent adverse health outcomes. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, “health outcomes are changes in health that result from measures or specific health care investments or interventions.”

Benefits of Taking Periodic Girth Measurements

To truly understand something, you must be able to measure it. You know an exercise plan is working when positive changes occur. Such as reduced girth measurements, an increase in daily steps or a reduction in added sugar. But to know this you need to measure it. Start by taking a waist and hip measurement. Divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement to get a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). This is a very important number that should be monitored. Easy enough. Men should strive for a WHR below 0.90 and women should stay below 0.85 to improve long-term health outcomes.

The size of your waistline may be the key to a long life, according to research conducted by the Mayo Clinic. The study involved nearly 13,000 Americans who were followed for 14 years. Lead researcher of the study, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, said people who are of normal weight, but who have a high waist-to-hip ratio have a higher risk of death than people who are considered obese, based on BMI alone. The risk of cardiovascular death was almost three times higher. The risk of death from all causes was two times higher in people of normal weight with central obesity, compared with those with a normal body mass index and normal WHR.

Benefits of Walking

Research shows that a total of about 150-minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or 75-minutes of vigorous activity) is the target. This can include brisk walking, which consistently reduces the risk of many chronic diseases and other adverse health outcomes. One of the easiest ways to begin monitoring walking is by wearing a pedometer. The next step is to get a baseline and then slowly increase your number of daily steps up to about 10,000 steps a day. Keep in mind there is no magic in 10k steps, it’s just a nice round number. The latest research says about 6,000 to 8,000 daily steps will do the job nicely according to University of Massachusetts Amherst epidemiologist Amanda Paluch. The researchers looked at tens of thousands of people across four continents involving data from 15 research studies.

In 2021, Paluch and her research group published research based on a cohort of more than 2,000 middle-aged individuals living across the United States. They found taking at least 7,000 steps a day reduced chances of premature death by 50 to 70 percent.

Harvard Alumni Study

As you increase your level of exercise this number you can also begin monitoring the number of flights of stairs you climb each day. Research from the Harvard Alumni Study found men who climbed eight flights a day enjoy a 33 percent lower mortality rate. That is even better than the 22 percent lower death rate men earned by walking 1.3 miles a day. There is strong scientific evidence showing physical activity reduces the risk of premature death. Most notably when compared to the leading causes of death, such as heart disease and various cancers. This effect is remarkable in two ways:

According to Physical Activity Guidelines, only a few lifestyle choices have as large an effect on mortality as physical activity. People who are physically active for 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying than someone active for less than 30-minutes a week. Studies demonstrate substantially lower death and injury rates when people do 150-minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week.

man jogging on a dock

Additional Exercise Research

One 10-year study observed 229 postmenopausal women randomly assigned one of two groups. One group walked at least one mile a day while the other group continued normal activities. At the end of the trial, the walkers enjoyed an 82 percent lower risk of heart disease. A second study, a meta-analysis of 48 trials in 8,946 patients, showed that moderate exercise — including walking or riding a stationary bicycle for 30-minutes three times a week — “produced a 26 percent reduction in the risk of death from heart disease and a 20 percent reduction in the overall death rate”. I guess Hippocrates was right some 2,400 years ago when he said “Walking is a man’s (and women’s) best medicine.”

Decreasing Added Sugar Benefits More than Just Your Waistline

By focusing on one small adjustment – cutting back on added sugar – you could end up seeing significant changes in terms of how you look and feel. To hold yourself more accountable, take a baseline and follow-up WHR. Regular binging on added sugar can be harmful to your body and energy level for many reasons. Eating too much added sugar throughout the day results in frequent blood sugar spikes. As a result a hormone – insulin – is secreted the pancreas. In turn insulin levels stay elevated for longer periods of time and this can eventually promote fat storage.

Previous research (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014) continues to demonstrate that high levels of added sugar can among other things, increase the risk for cardiovascular disease.

Study results indicate that the average percentage of daily calories from added sugar increased from 15.7 percent in 1988-1994 to 16.8 percent in 1999 to 2004 and decreased to 14.9 percent in 2005-2010.

As you can see there is strong evidence to place more focus on monitoring WHR, increasing your daily steps and cutting back on processed sugar. You can bet that if you’re consuming the majority of your calories from alcohol, eating at fast-food joints, doing take-out, or from cans/boxes/packages then you’re taking in too much added sugar. More than 80 percent of these types of foods contain very high levels of added sugar! During the next three days read all food labels and try staying below 30 grams of added sugar a day.

Use Jefit App to Track Your Workout

Jefit, named best online strength training choice for 2022, in an article published by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit.

Michael Wood, CSCS
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