Researchers at the University of Missouri claim that exercise or a regular physical workout plays an important role in combating obesity despite previous belief that exercise increases appetite, food intake, and reduces daily activity. However, the team found that exercise still led to weight loss without cutting back on one’s diet as well as encouraged healthy gut microbial growth, which is believed to help prevent obesity.
“Overall, the exercising rats had higher metabolic rates, were more active even when not running on their wheels and experienced shifts in their gut microbes, perhaps putting them in a better position to avoid future weight gain compared to the other groups,” says Vicki Vieira-Potter, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the university.
The research team aimed to study exercise independently from weight loss and to identify the other metabolic consequences related with physical activity. They grouped young rats susceptible to obesity into three.
Two groups were sedentary while the other underwent exercise. One of the two sedentary groups was allowed to eat as much fatty foods as they liked while the other group was given a controlled diet that corresponded to the weight loss caused by exercise.
The third group exercised using running wheels and were allowed to eat as much food as they wanted. Unsurprisingly, those rats that were physically inactive and ate as much food as they wanted became obese several weeks after the experiment.
Those sedentary rats that ate a strict diet did not become obese. However, those that had a programmed workout but with unlimited food access were found to be healthier metabolically and have different gut microorganisms that break down food unlike the two groups of sedentary rats.
“These findings confirm that exercise is an important component of overall health and is critically important in the fight against obesity, especially during the juvenile period,” concludes Vieira-Potter.