Why To Exercise Today, Even If You Don't Lose Weight

This article is more than 9 years old.

Speaking as a person who seems to have one of the most immutable "set points" in the universe, I find this news very encouraging: Even if I never lose an ounce, I'm still getting health benefits when I work out.

From the July issue of the Harvard Health Letter:

Some people who start an exercise program have trouble losing weight, and then get discouraged and quit. That's a serious error: according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, regular exercise protects your health even if you don't lose weight. The study found the reverse is also true: losing weight can help your heart, even if you're not as active as you should be.

"I think the findings are encouraging, because they clearly show that among the individuals who gain weight, if you maintain your fitness, you're at a lower risk compared to those who gain the same amount of weight but don't maintain fitness," says Dr. I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

"Exercise makes the heart less prone to arrhythmias, and it affects the sympathetic nervous system, which brings down your heart rate and allows your heart to work more efficiently," Dr. Lee says.

"Exercise also lowers blood pressure and improves your lipid profile and glucose processing, even if you don't lose weight."

So many good things. The only thing that would be better would be to lose weight as well; the recent study found that those subjects improved their health the most.

This program aired on July 9, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.