News Flash: Exercise and Weight Loss, Cash for Working Out, Coffee for a Longer Life

Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we look at how much exercise is effective for weight loss, how $2 a day can get people off the couch, and why drinking coffee—even decaf—can mean a longer life span.

Yes, exercise can help you lose weight … if you do enough

For years, you have probably heard that great bodies are made in the kitchen and that exercise alone isn’t enough to help you lose weight. But a new study featured in The New York Times suggests that it can—if people are willing to work out enough.

Previous research has shown that people who start a fitness program to lose weight tend to compensate for the extra calories they are burning by eating more or moving less throughout the rest of their day.

Most of these studies involved the 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise recommended under the current guidelines for health. University of North Dakota researchers decided to test whether more exercise would lead to more of this compensation or whether participants would actually begin to lose weight with exercise alone and no changes to their diet.

They tracked the food and activity of 31 overweight sedentary men and women over 12 weeks, putting one group in the 30-minute, five-days-a-week exercise group that burned about 1,500 calories a week and another in a group that worked out twice as long—about 60 minutes on each of those days—burning 3,000 calories each week.

After four months, the two groups reported back to the lab. Those who did the 30-minute workouts lost little to no body fat. In fact, some were heavier. But many of those who had walked twice as much were thinner. In fact, 12 of them had shed at least 5 percent of their body fat.

When the math was done, researchers found that both groups compensated for the additional exercise by adding back almost 1,000 calories, but those burning 3,000 calories a week still had enough of a deficit to lose fat.

Could $2 a day jump-start your fitness program?

Just wearing a fitness tracker might not get you moving, but combine it with a bribe of a couple of dollars a day and some goal setting and you’ll get people working out, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers tracked 105 ischemic heart disease patients for 24 weeks, with patients in the incentive group wearing tracking devices on their wrists, receiving personalized step goals and daily feedback, as well as $14 each week in a virtual account for the first 16 weeks if their step goals were met. If their step goals weren’t met, the patients lost $2 a day from this account.

Patients in the incentive group logged 1,368 more steps per day than the control group with the tracker alone. Plus, after the financial incentives were stopped, the incentive group still logged 1,154 more steps per day than the control group.

The good news about your coffee habit

When researchers tried to assess whether heavy coffee consumption is linked to an increased risk of death, they found just the opposite. Coffee drinkers had a lower mortality risk than non-coffee drinkers over a 10-year period, according to a study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In fact, risk declined as coffee consumption went up, with those drinking two to three cups per day having a 12 percent lower risk of death compared to nondrinkers, a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute told NPR. Those drinking eight or more cups had a 14 percent lower risk of death. And it didn’t matter whether the brew was decaf.

Researchers are now turning their attention to which nutrients or phytochemicals in the coffee bean itself are responsible for the effect.

Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash