Exercise – the route to wanting healthier eats

RGBstock photo - Ayla87

RGBstock photo – Ayla87

The winter of 2014 just goes on and on with  no sign of abating. Hibernating inside continues to appeal as does the allure of comfort food.  Yet here it is February,  Heart Month, the time when we should be paying special attention to healthy eating and exercise (not that we shouldn’t all year long, though).  New research, however, is pointing to a way to take the first step to get you back on track:   exercise.

The perks you may reap are really quite surprising and may motivate even the most determined winter couch potatoes.

British researchers,  in an investigation published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  assessed  subjects after they  participated in  high-intensity exercise  as well as  rest sessions. While they viewed images of high- and low-calorie foods, the scientists used MRIs to  assess the effect of  exercise,  versus rest, on neurological activity in the brain and on hormones which regulate appetite.

After the exercise, the appetite hormones were suppressed during the viewing of the  high-calorie foods yet activated with the low-calorie images.   In other words, the exercise tamed their appetites.

So what can this mean to you?

Enlightened  eating should not be about will power.  If you always crave decadent delights, even if you don’t give in, it’s not a healthy or a pleasurable way to live.

Life just seems longer.

Chances are, though, that if you’re always on the hunt for fat and salt-laden options, you will eventually give in. If enjoying nutritious eats doesn’t come naturally, finding ways to make it happen  is key to a healthy lifestyle.

Along with making your choice of fare tasty,  bouts of intense exercise may also help. Keep in mind that intense exercise varies from one person to the next. If you’re not in great shape, a not-so-brisk session of walking is intense for you as your heart rate will be more elevated with less strenuous exercise than it is in someone who participates in regular exercise.  Over time, it will take more effort to get your heart rate up.

At this time of year, when walking outside may not be appealing, you don’t have to go to a gym for some fitness activities. Head to a nearby shopping mall with your walking shoes in tow or even head to the stairwell and walk up. A word of warning, for those with creaky knees, take the elevator down and walk back up again if you need more exercise.

As for your pace, the intense exercise in the study was described as 70% maximum aerobic capacity or heart rate.  To calculate this figure,  which is dependent on your age,  subtract your age from 220 and that will give you your maximum heart rate.   So if you are 35 years old, your maximum would be 185.  Then multiply that figure by 0.7 and you would get 130 as the heart rate you’re aiming for.

To determine your heart rate, take your pulse for 10 seconds while you are exercising. Then multiply that figure by six and you will get your heart rate –  the number of beats in a minute.   Then compare it to the 70 % figure you’re aiming for  and try to adjust your exercise accordingly. If your heart is beating too quickly, slow in down and if the number is  too low,  pick up the pace.

Another perk observed after the intense exercise  was a boost in  the body temperature. Translation? A higher body temperature equals a higher metabolic rate and greater calorie burning capacity.

A higher metabolic rate means a better sense of energy. Feeling more energetic, burning more calories and preferring healthier fare – you can’t beat that when it comes to getting on the track to heart health, can you?

Do you exercise regularly?  If not, what are your  barriers to get in some fitness activities? If you have recently started exercising, how did you overcome any barriers? Please share in the comment section below.

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Categories: Research Roundup

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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