The pressure to lose weight can be overwhelming. Everywhere we turn there are commercials for a new diet program or ads reminding us we apparently should want to have a bikini body year-round. Yes, eating healthy and working out are a part of the equation, but a recent study reminds us there is something else at play: genetics. Thanks to this work, we are finding out what exactly our genetics have to do with weight and what health markers we should be aware of when choosing our physical activity.
THE LATEST RESEARCH
A study performed in Taiwan and published in PLOS Genetics looked at the genetics and physical activity of more than 18,000 Han Chinese adults, from ages 30–70. They examined five obesity markers in the participants, including body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, waist and hip circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. Genetic risk scores were assigned to each marker. Everything but waist-to-hip ratio was reduced with regular exercise, but a regular jogging routine had the most significant effect on genetic risk scores for all markers.
Other physical activities tested were mountain climbing, walking, exercise walking, international standard dancing and longer practices of yoga. “Among these exercises, regular jogging consistently presented the strongest evidence to mitigate the genetic effects on all five obesity measures,” according to the study.
Researchers admit that while obesity is a worldwide problem, it is a challenging issue (they note this is due to the complex combination of genetics and lifestyle involved). They share that usually BMI has been the focus of previous studies, however, BMI alone doesn’t include lean body mass and does not identify central obesity. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concedes there are clinical limitations to measuring BMI and there are factors that influence its interpretation in a clinical setting.
WHY JOGGING IS GREAT FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Because we know both genetics and physical activity are at play, when it comes to our health, we can only do so much. Our physical activity is what we can actually control, and even if you haven’t discussed your BMI with a physician or have problematic genetic risk scores for the obesity markers listed above, the study does provide beneficial information. Simply put, jogging is great for weight loss.
“Jogging is a great cardiovascular form of exercise that helps with weight loss,” explains Stephanie Mansour, a nationally recognized health and fitness coach and CEO of Step It Up With Steph. “Not only does jogging burn calories and get your body moving, but it also gets your heart rate up, improves circulation, can boost your metabolism, improve muscle strength and balance and mentally gives you a rush of feel-good endorphins!”
JOGGING VERSUS RUNNING
Of course, this brings up the issue of distinguishing between jogging and running. Mansour personally refers to jogging as a more leisurely activity in the sense that jogging sounds less intense and more fun than running (which she envisions as a longer distance and/or more vigorous than jogging).
“But technically speaking, the only difference that many sources agree on is the pace,” she acknowledges. “Jogging refers to a slower pace while running generally refers to a faster pace.”
While jogging itself is a great cardiovascular option for weight loss, it is important to think of your health in a more well-rounded sense (by eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep, for example). Your physical activity is just one aspect of living a healthy lifestyle. Additionally, varying your activity and adding in strength training, for example, helps you build muscle, which also has a role in weight loss.
“Building muscle helps with weight loss because muscle burns fat faster than fat burns fat,” explains Mansour. “We need muscle in order to burn fat. In fact, building muscle in your workouts through strength training — like squats, modified pushups, lunges, Pilates, etc. — will help you burn calories even while you’re sleeping!”
IF YOU’RE NEW TO JOGGING…
If you’re ready to start jogging and don’t know where to begin, Mansour has a plan for you. She recommends getting your body prepped — even before jogging — with fast-paced walks and pumping your arms while breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
“Moving forward, I would recommend increasing in this way,” advises Mansour. “If you don’t like counting minutes and instead would rather count blocks or miles, think about your 3-minute fast-paced warmup as walking 3 blocks or 1/4 mile. For a 5-minute jog, think of that as 5 blocks or 1/2 mile.”
No routine will be beneficial if you don’t stick with it, so find what works best for you and with your schedule. Mansour admits that while it sounds cliche, the most effective workout programs are the ones you actually stick with.
“It may seem like a 5-minute walk or a 1-minute jog is not going to make a dent in your weight-loss routine, but more important than making a dent one time, think of making a dent in your brain to train your brain to believe that exercising is easy,” she concludes. “It’s fun. It’s not so labor intensive. It doesn’t have to be grueling. Make a dent in your current comfort zone by stepping it up and starting with one jog.”