TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Best Workout for Weight Loss

Why intensity matters in exercise

Everyone knows that cardio exercise—by way of a bike ride or a sprint—is key to weight loss. But a high-intensity cardio workout may do a better job of decreasing blood sugar levels than lower intensity exercise, according to a new study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study assigned 300 obese people to a group: one that exercised with low intensity for long periods of time or another that engaged in high-intensity workouts for short durations. By the end of six months, people in both groups experienced similar levels of weight loss. But those who had exercised with higher intensities saw reduced two-hour glucose levels, a key measure for predicting conditions like heart disease and stroke. People in the high-intensity group saw a 9% improvement in glucose tolerance, compared to a negligible change in people who took part in low-intensity exercise.

Increasing the intensity of a workout isn’t beyond the reach of most exercisers, according to lead study author Robert Ross, a researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “Higher intensity can be achieved simply by increasing the incline while walking on a treadmill or walking at a brisker pace,” Ross says.

Read more: This Is How Much Exercise Experts Think You Really Need

Still, while high-intensity exercise may have some unique health benefits, the study showed that any exercise is better than none. People who exercised lost 5-6% of their body weight, a 4- to 5-centimeter reduction in waist size.

The study challenges the way public health officials tend to think about the health benefits of exercise. Health organizations often issue guidelines based on time spent exercising. Instead, the study suggests, health officials should consider intensity as well.

Read more: The 50 Healthiest Foods of All Time

Read next: The Best Workout Move You’re Not Doing

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TIME Obesity

Your Definitive Guide to Losing Body Fat

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The trick is understanding the difference between the kinds of fat and keeping them in balance with diet and exercise

We curse the dimpled cellulite that has settled on our thighs and survey the pudge around our belly with a quick poke and a disapproving eye. But here’s the thing: Fat isn’t just a place where your body dumps extra calories. It’s an organ that can help—or harm—your health. (One type, brown fat, can actually turn your body into a calorie-burning machine!) “Everyone has fat—even Olympic marathon runners,” says Osama Hamdy, MD, medical director of the Obesity Clinical Program at Harvard University’s Joslin Diabetes Center. “Simply put, we need it to survive.” The trick is understanding the difference between the kinds of fat and keeping them in balance with diet, exercise and some plain old common sense. Get ready to go deep.

Fat type No. 1: Subcutaneous fat

Where it is: Directly underneath your skin. Subcutaneous fat can be anywhere: not just in your belly and tush but your arms, legs—even your face.

What it does: In addition to storing energy and providing essential padding for your body, it has another important job: It generates the hormone adiponectin, which helps regulate insulin production. “Paradoxically, the fatter you are, the less adiponectin you produce, which means that your body has trouble regulating insulin, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Hamdy says.

How to blast it off: Cutting calories is crucial for overall weight loss, but getting moving counts, too: Women who walked, cycled or took public transportation to work had about 1.5 percent less body fat than those who drove, according to a U.K. study published this past August. “It’s proof that those little bursts of activity count when it comes to burning fat,” notes Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Even just walking from the train station or bus to your office can burn on average an extra hundred calories.”

Read more: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

Already active? Ramp it up. “When you take your workout up a notch, you reach VO2 max—that’s the level of exertion where you have the optimal breakdown of body fat,” Dr. Peeke explains. “It also fools your body into thinking that you’re working out minutes after you’ve stopped, so you’re still burning calories.”

Fat type No. 2: Visceral fat

Where it is: Nestled deep within your belly, where it pads the spaces around your abdominal organs. You can’t feel or grab it.

What it does: Visceral fat has been dubbed “toxic” fat, and for good reason: “It secretes inflammatory proteins called cytokines that affect insulin production and increase inflammation throughout the body, which raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” Dr. Hamdy says. You can’t directly measure visceral fat unless you undergo an MRI or a CT scan. The next best thing? Grab a tape measure and wind it around your waist; if your midsection is more than 35 inches, you most likely have too much visceral fat, Dr. Hamdy says. A Mayo Clinic study published last March found that Caucasian women with waist sizes above 37 inches were more likely to die from heart or respiratory disease. Another sign of trouble: Your numbers are off, meaning you’ve got low HDL (good) cholesterol and elevated blood glucose and triglyceride levels. “When a woman who has been lean most of her life gains 10 to 20 pounds at age 40 or so, she may not even be technically overweight, but it’s usually visceral fat that’s adding the extra weight,” explains Caroline Cederquist, MD, a bariatric physician based in Naples, Fla., and author of The MD Factor Diet.

Read more: Fat-Burning Recipe: Blueberry Oat Pancakes With Maple Yogurt

How to blast it off: “To mobilize visceral fat, a balanced diet is essential,” Dr. Cederquist says. “Eat lean protein throughout the day, while controlling your carb and fat intake.” For keeping visceral fat off, cardio is the way to go: A 2011 Duke University study found that regular aerobic exercise—the equivalent of jogging about 12 miles a week at 80 percent max heart rate—was the best workout for losing visceral fat in particular.

Fat type No. 3: Brown fat

Where it is: Mainly around your neck, collarbone and chest. For years, researchers assumed that it was present primarily in infants, helping to keep them warm, and that it gradually disappeared during childhood. But in 2009, studies revealed that some adults still have brown cells.

What it does: This buzzed-about “good” fat becomes metabolically active when we’re exposed to cold temperatures, burning up energy. “Since brown fat is used to generate heat, it burns more calories at rest,” says Ruth Loos, MD, professor of preventive medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Fifty grams (about 4 tablespoons) of brown fat, if maximally stimulated, could torch about 300 calories a day.

How to beef it up: Since brown fat is activated by cold, prepare to shiver. According to a study in Cell Metabolism, folks who spent 10 to 15 minutes in temperatures below 60 degrees produced a hormone called irisin, which appears to make white fat cells act like brown fat; they got a similar boost from an hour of moderate exercise at warmer temps. And keep your thermostat low: An Australian study showed that men who lived in homes set to 66 degrees generated 40 percent more brown fat than when they lived in higher temps.

Read more: 20 Snacks That Burn Fat

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

The One Food That Can Spike Weight Loss

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Emilio Ereza—Getty Images/age fotostock RM

Healthy diets seem complicated and restrictive, but adding one kind of food may be all you need to get healthier

Improving your diet often suggests a daunting revamp of every food you eat, but changing just one thing will help you lose weight and get significantly healthier, finds a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

A group of researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School zeroed in on fiber, since previous studies have shown it can help people feel more full, eat less and improve some metabolic markers like blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

They recruited 240 people who showed signs of prediabetes and randomly assigned them to the American Heart Association (AHA) diet, which is currently recommended for those at risk of developing diabetes, or to eating more fiber. The AHA group focused on decreasing their daily calorie intake in order to lose weight, and they were provided with goals to limit saturated fat. The fiber group was simply asked to eat more foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to reach a quota of at least 30 grams of fiber per day. Neither group was told to change their exercise habits.

MORE Fiber Isn’t Just Good for the Colon Anymore

After a year, both groups lost about the same amount of weight. Even more surprisingly, the people in the study also showed similar drops in cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar and inflammation. “By changing one thing, people in the fiber group were able to improve their diet and lose weight and improve their overall markers for metabolic syndrome,” says study author Dr. Yunsheng Ma.

While he’s not yet ready to say that people at risk of developing diabetes should ditch the AHA diet and focus just on eating more fiber, Ma’s study does suggest an alternative way of getting healthier. “I think we have to change the paradigm about recommendations,” he says. “Telling people to reduce this or reduce that is just too hard to do.”

MORE This is How Nutritionists Snack at Work

Ma notes that while dietary guidelines to lower the risk of various diseases have been around for decades, obesity, heart problems and diabetes remain the most common conditions affecting Americans. “Very few people reach the goals that are recommended,” he says. Asking them to focus on eating more of a certain food—rather than telling them what not to eat—may help people to think more positively about changes in their diet, and make the goals more achievable. From there, it might be easier to make the other changes, such as those included in the AHA diet. “[Adding fiber] might be one new idea for how to get people to adhere to a diet,” he says. That’s the first step, and perhaps most important, to eating healthier.

Read next: 7 Surprising Ways To Eat Healthy at a Restaurant

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TIME Obesity

New Genes Mean the Future of Obesity Treatment Could Get Personal

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Scientists have uncovered a trove of new genetic targets that could lead to better treatments for obesity

It took the genomes of nearly 340,000 people and more than 400 researchers in two dozen countries, but we now have the most comprehensive picture so far of the genetic contributors to obesity.

Two new papers in the journal Nature describe the results of two studies that connected the obesity-related factors of body mass index (the ratio between height and weight) and fat distribution to their potential genetic drivers. The studies did not isolate specific genes—at least not yet—but identified areas in the human genome where people with different BMIs and different patterns of fat distribution varied in their genetic code. Those variants will lead scientists to the genes they code for, and eventually to how those genes work in contributing to obesity.

MORE: Healthy-Obesity Gene Found—But Genes Aren’t Everything

“I think we have so many more opportunities now to learn about the biology of obesity through genetic contributions to these traits,” says Karen Mohlke, professor of genetics at University of North Carolina and the senior author of the report focusing on body fat distribution.

Those genetic clues may yield new weight-management treatments that are both more powerful and more personalized. “What the data supports is the fact that there are a lot of different causes of obesity,” says Dr. Elizabeth Speliotes, assistant professor of internal medicine and computational medicine and bioinformatics at the University of Michigan and senior author of the paper on body mass index. “If you’re hoping for one cause of obesity, that’s not reality. What causes you to be obese is probably slightly different from what causes me to be obese.”

Currently, however, all obesity is treated pretty much the same way. With the new knowledge gleaned from the genetics of what’s driving different types of obesity, that may change.

MORE: Gym vs. Genes: How Exercise Trumps Obesity Genes

In the study involving factors contributing to BMI, Speliotes and her team discovered 97 genetic regions, or loci that account for nearly 3% of the variation among people on BMI. Of those, 56 are entirely new. Many of the regions are in areas that code for nervous system functions, or brain systems. Some aren’t so surprising—they confirm previous studies that have implicated genetic regulators of areas that control appetite, for example—but others were more unexpected. They involved regions responsible for learning, memory and even emotional regulation, hinting that some of weight and obesity may be tied to the addiction and reward pathways that help to reinforce behaviors like eating with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. “There were definitely a lot more loci involving the brain than I would have guessed,” says Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, director of the center for basic and translational obesity research at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and one of the co-authors. “That makes obesity much more of a neurobehavioral disorder than just the fact that your fat cells are more efficient or less efficient.”

MORE: Study Identifies Four New Genetic Markers For Severe Childhood Obesity

They also uncovered some truly head-scratching connections between some genetic variants that contributed to higher BMI and lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and triglyceride levels. That suggests that there may be some protective genetic factors that counteract the effects of higher BMI, and exploiting these may be an entirely new way of treating obesity.

The group that zeroed in on the genetic factors directing how body fat is distributed had similar findings. Mohlke and her colleagues looked at the waist-hip ratio and found 49 areas in the genome that varied among the participants, 33 of which were entirely new. Most of the variants involved logical processes such as the formation of HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and processing of insulin.

MORE: New Genes Identified in Obesity: How Much of Weight is Genetic?

What was interesting, however, was the fact that many of these exerted much more power on women than on men, suggesting the need to recognize gender-based differences as a critical factor in future obesity therapies.

The findings, all of the authors stress, are just the beginning of a deeper understanding of what is driving obesity in its many forms, and how best to intervene with more personalized and potentially more effective treatments. Genes, they say, only play a part in obesity, but these studies are the first step toward a better appreciation of how genes are involved in behaviors that influence what and how much we eat. “We don’t know how much impact each of these genetic loci are going to have on whether people will need different treatments,” says Hirschhorn. “But these papers provide the tools to start answering that question. It’s possible that if we know a lot more about how somebody came to be obese, then we will know more about what to do about it.”

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Parents of Obese Children in Puerto Rico Could Face Fines of Up to $800

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Peter Dazeley—Getty Images

Obesity is a significant problem in the territory

Parents in Puerto Rico will be fined up to $800 if their children are obese, if a bill currently being debated in the legislature is implemented.

Local senator Gilberto Rodríguez stated that the bill was aimed at improving children’s health and enabling parents to make better health choices, the Guardian reported.

Under the proposed bill, schoolteachers would refer potential obesity cases to a counselor, who would then work with the parents of the child to create a diet and exercise program monitored by monthly visits. Failure to show improvement within six months to a year could result in fines of between $500 and $800 for the parents.

Obesity is a significant problem in the small island territory, with over 28% of youngsters reportedly defined as obese. However, several doctors, including the Puerto Rico chapter president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, have called the initiative unfair.

[Guardian]

TIME Obesity

This Chart Shows How Hard It Is to End Childhood Obesity

Overall childhood obesity in America hasn't declined

Michelle Obama announced her “Let’s Move” campaign, an effort to fight childhood obesity by promoting healthier eating and physical activity among kids, five years ago Monday. But the most recent data show that driving down childhood obesity rates is proving to be an elusive goal.

Obama’s challenge was steep: Overall childhood obesity rates tripled in the past three decades, climbing from about 5% in 1974 to nearly 17% by 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All told, 12.7 million children were considered obese when “Let’s Move” got underway in 2010.

How are efforts to fight childhood obesity doing?

As the chart below shows, the results are mixed: While childhood obesity among children between two and five years old dropped 3.7% from 2010 to 2012, the rate increased 2.1% for children 12-19 during the same period. The overall childhood obesity rate, meanwhile, remained at a constant 16.9% from 2008 through 2012.

If there’s a silver lining in the numbers, it’s the reduction in obesity among very young children. If kids are being taught healthy habits at a younger age, they’re probably more likely to carry those behaviors into grade school and beyond, public health experts say. If that trend holds true, we should start to see a similar drop in obesity among older children over the next few years.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 29

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The homeownership safety net may be unraveling for the next generation of seniors.

By Taz George and Ellen Seidman in MetroTrends

2. As we try to understand what draws Americans to ISIS, one judge hopes we can slow radicalization by putting recruits in halfway houses instead of jail.

By Dina Temple-Raston at National Public Radio

3. Phones for farmers: With a mobile phone, a developing world farmer can learn best practices, get weather data, follow crop prices and even access financial services.

By Gates Notes

4. A new food studies program at a Bronx community college will look at healthy eating and obesity in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

By Winnie Hu in the New York Times

5. A new initiative is pushing to get more women into the debate on global issues. Meet Foreign Policy Interrupted.

By Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A simple plan pairing a low-income first-time mom with a nurse for advice through pregnancy and her child’s early years can give that family stability and even a better life.

By Nancy Cook in the Atlantic

2. Google will pilot test a build-your-own modular smartphone, operating out of a mobile phone-lab that looks like a food truck.

By Nathan Ingraham and Josh Lowensohn in the Verge

3. The belief that some scientific fields require innate genius or natural ‘brilliance’ may keep women out.

By Rachel Bernstein in Science Magazine

4. The FDA has cleared a ‘pacemaker for the stomach’ that could be a silver bullet against obesity.

By Thomas M. Burton in the Wall Street Journal

5. Offshore wind farms — if we can build them — stand to provide twice as much energy and create twice as many jobs as offshore drilling.

By Lindsay Abrams in Salon

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: January 15

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Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

Top of the Rock

A pair of Americans on Wednesday completed what had long been considered the world’s most difficult rock climb, using only their hands and feet to conquer a 3,000-ft. vertical wall on El Capitan, the forbidding granite pedestal in Yosemite National Park

How to Get Kids to Eat More Veg

There’s a way to get school kids to eat more vegetables at lunch, and it has nothing to do with what’s on the menu. Just mess with their schedule

Eyes on Yemen After Paris Plot

Yemen’s fingerprints are all over the terrorist attack against French newspaper Charlie Hebdo after the country’s al-Qaeda branch claimed responsibility

Science Fans Are Getting Their Own Netflix

John Hendricks, the founder of the Discovery Channel, will launch a service called CuriosityStream on March 18, offering science and nature-related content on demand. The service will be available on all Internet devices as well as Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast

Ohio Man Planned to Attack U.S. Capitol, Feds Say

An Ohio man has been arrested for allegedly planning to attack the U.S. Capitol and kill government officials, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday. Christopher Cornell, 20, is said to have used an alias and expressed support for the militant group ISIS on Twitter

Inactivity Is More Harmful Than Obesity

In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition released on Wednesday, researchers say at least twice as many deaths are attributable to lack of exercise than there are to obesity. The data was taken from 334,161 European men and women

White House Will Call on Congress to Pass Paid-Leave Bill

U.S. President Barack Obama will continue rolling out policy recommendations that speak to issues facing the middle class ahead of his upcoming State of the Union address on Thursday, with a call for Congress to pass legislation addressing paid leave

Michael Keaton May Play McDonald’s Mogul Ray Kroc

Fresh off his big win at the Golden Globes, Birdman star Michael Keaton is in talks to star in a movie about the man behind McDonald’s. The Founder, depicting the life of fast-food pioneer Ray Kroc, will be directed by John Lee Hancock

Your Fish May Soon Be Caught by Thai Prisoners

Dozens of labor and human-rights groups have condemned a plan by the Thai junta to use prison labor on fishing boats, which are already notorious for violence, human trafficking and slave-like conditions

NRA Suing Pennsylvania Cities on Gun Laws

Armed with a new state law that opponents denounce as a gift to the gun lobby, pro-gun groups are rapidly scaling up their attack on municipal firearms ordinances throughout Pennsylvania, with the National Rifle Association filing suit over measures in three cities

Missing Plane’s Fuselage Found

Search crews located the fuselage of missing AirAsia Flight 8501, marking a breakthrough in the search for the plane’s scattered wreckage. The flight en route from Indonesia to Singapore vanished over the Java Sea on Dec. 28 with 162 people on board

Pacquiao’s Agent Denies Mayweather Deal

Fans hoping to see the fight of the century between eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao and unbeaten Floyd Mayweather will have to keep waiting, after Pacman’s agent quelled reports that he had agreed to terms

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, January 16 at 1 p.m., with TIME’s Washington bureau chief, Michael Scherer. He has a story in this week’s TIME about the different kind of presidential campaign that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee would run if he decides to seek that office a second time.

His other stories can be found here.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

You will need to be a TIME subscriber to read the Q & A. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

TIME Obesity

The FDA Has Approved an Implantable Device for Obesity

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new device that uses electricity to control hunger pangs

It’s the first new device for fighting obesity in nearly a decade and on Wednesday, it was FDA approved for Americans.

Called VBLOC, the device requires implanting a small pulse generator into the abdomen, making it less invasive than bariatric surgery. VBLOC took its manufacturer, EnteroMedics, 12 years to develop. It works in the gut like a pacemaker does in the heart, sending out pulses of electricity to the vagus nerve, which normally signals the brain when the stomach is empty or full. VBLOC stimulates this nerve, sending the message that the stomach is satisfied, which shuts down the urge to eat more.

For now, doctors set the device to trigger different levels of electrical stimulation, depending on how much support the patient needs. Eventually, EnteroMedics’ consulting chief medical officer, Dr. Scott Shikora, patients may be able to adjust the frequency and timing of the pulses themselves.

VBLOC is approved for those who are obese, with a body mass index of 35 to 45, and who have at least one other obesity-related medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease. Patients also have to have tried and failed at losing weight with a weight loss program.

“If you bring along a new technology that is much simpler, much lower risk and doesn’t dramatically change lifestyle like required of bariatric patients, then I suspect a pretty good number of patients out there will say ‘Sign me up, this is for me,’” says Shikora, who has been performing the more invasive operations for two decades in Boston. For now, it’s likely to be offered by reputable weight loss centers that also perform other obesity procedures in the coming year before expanding to other outlets.

The FDA based its decision on a trial conducted by EnteroMedics involving 157 patients who used the device and 76 patients who did not. The VBLOC group lost 8.5% more excess weight than the control group after a year. While the weight loss did not meet the study’s original goal of having the patients lose at least 10% of their excess weight, the agency decided that the benefits of the device in helping obese patients lose weight outweighed any potential risks, which included surgical complications, vomiting, heartburn, chest pain and problems swallowing. “Medical devices can help physicians and patients to develop comprehensive obesity treatment plans,” Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in a statement.

The agency is asking EnteroMedics to continue studying VBLOC for five years in at least 100 patients who use the device after it reaches market. Those studies will let doctors and regulators know if stimulating the vagus nerve continuously in these patients has any adverse effects on the nerve’s other functions in communicating information from the digestive tract up to the brain.

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