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Can Exercise Be Overrated?

Let me say I was taken aback somewhat about this study that found exercise may benefit some people less than others. According to researchers at LSU, for an unhappy few, even quite strenuous exercise may have no effect on their fitness or their risk of developing diseases like diabetes. In fact, scientists discovered an "astounding variation in the response to exercise."

In the study, some 750 patients, who had regular physical activity for the previous six months, followed a strict 20-week endurance training program. Exercise on stationary bikes was gradually increased so that, by the last six weeks, patients were exercising for 50 minutes three times a week at 75 percent of the maximum output they were capable of before the study.

As far as maximum oxygen consumption, the most trainable patients improved by more than 40 percent, but the least trainable showed no improvement at all. Similar patterns were seen with cardiac output, blood pressure, heart rate and other fitness markers. Also varying widely was the impact of training on insulin sensitivity -- a marker of risk for diabetes and heart disease. Forty-two percent of the participants showed no improvement or, in a few cases, may have gotten worse.

Don't trade your gym membership and running shoes for a new recliner and a HD plasma TV just yet! A moderate exercise can do wonderful things for your health, as it can be an excellent and far healthier alternative to taking the flu vaccine. And if you're as time-challenged as I am, you can easily benefit from short 10-minute bursts three times a day.

Recent studies I've posted on this site have also noted the benefits of exercise in treating rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson's disease.

New Scientist December 2, 2004

BBC News December 2, 2004

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