Health Notes: More activity means less obesity…maybe, exercise reduces anxiety

In SNEWS® Health Notes, an occasional series, we take a look at recent research that is pertinent to your business and explain it in a way that makes sense. In this installment, we examine how more physical activity means less obesity…maybe, and how exercise can reduce anxiety.

You want information about health, physical activity, exercise and wellness, but you don’t want all the techno-science garble that makes most reports overwhelming to read, let alone understand or pass on to customers. In SNEWS® Health Notes, an occasional series, we take a look at recent research that is pertinent to your business and explain it in a way that makes sense. If you have suggestions or comments, let us know by emailing

>> More physical activity means less obesity…maybe

Seems intuitive that if you move more, you’ll weigh less but that may not always be the case, according to a study out in May 2010. Gender, race and ethnic background affected the outcome.

The researcher reviewed health and activity data from 1999-2006 in a sample that involved more than 12,000 people ages 20-64 in the United States. In general, the more active a person was, the less extra weight he or she carried. That held more true for men or for women who were African American or Hispanic, but less true for white woman, found Dong-Chul Seo of Indiana University.

“For the majority of health professionals, even health researchers, they say the more leisure-time physical activity you engage in, the less likely you’ll get obese,” Seo, associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation’s Department of Applied Health Science, said in a statement. “This is true, but it’s probably only applicable to white women and some of the white men.”

Looking deeper, Seo found that job-related physical activity might have influenced obesity rates. Studies have found, for example, that men and Hispanic women are more likely to have manually demanding jobs than white women.

“This illustrates to me the importance of physical activity in the workplace,” Seo said. “Workplace wellness programs should really be emphasized, especially for people who do sedentary work. To enhance their health, maybe employers could offer workout spaces and incentives to do physical activity during the work hours or right after. They can make it easier.”

Seo said the biggest decline in obesity rates was seen in women who participated in leisure physical activity even if they didn’t meet the minimum guidelines. National guidelines call for a minimum of 450-750 “MET” minutes per week. A MET, or metabolic equivalent, is a way of quantifying the total amount of physical activity in a way that is comparable across various forms of physical activity. Walking briskly for 30 minutes, for example, is around 100 MET. Running 6 mph for 30 minutes is around 300 MET.

So what? If you aren’t active on the job — or even if you are — some leisure physical activity is necessary for weight control.

For the scientifically minded: The abstract from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (64: 426-431, 2010) is available at no charge by clicking here.

>> Exercise can reduce anxiety

Anxiety can be an unrecognized symptom in people with a chronic illness. Researchers reviewed literature looking at the effect of exercise training on anxiety from 1995 to 2007 and found 40 articles involving sedentary adults.

Calculations using the results of all the articles’ findings showed that exercise training reduced symptoms of anxiety. The greatest results were seen with programs that lasted 12 weeks with sessions of 30 minutes.

So what? Exercise can make you simply feel better, less worried or less anxious.

For the scientifically minded: The abstract of the article from the Archives of Internal Medicine (170: 321-331, 2010) can be accessed at no charge by clicking here.

–Therese Iknoian