Exercise can increase physiological stress responses in the obese

May 13, 2014, University of Stavanger

The obese are advised to do physical exercise. But this can increase their physiological stress responses, and thereby make it more difficult to slim, according to a new Norwegian study.

This research may provide an explanation for the difficulties which many people encounter in losing weight despite energetic keep-fit efforts.

   "It's often said should change their diet and to lose weight. But they may also need to deal with stress," observes Brynjar Foss.

   An associate professor in the Department of Health Studies at the University of Stavanger (UiS), he is the lead author among the four scientists responsible for the study.

   Entitled "Exercise Can Alter Cortisol Responses in Obese Subjects," it was published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology online during February.

   The research covered 17 inactive people with a greater than 35 who took part in a 22 week programme for lifestyle change which involved exercise, diet and seminars.

   Despite their efforts, the participants lost less weight than expected from the amount of keep-fit they did and the changes they made to their eating habits.

   The scientists believe this could be related to cortisol, since the level of this stress hormone rose in the programme participants and they became more stressed. Earlier research suggests that high levels of stress make weight loss difficult.

Still up after six months
Those who took part not only had more cortisol than the immediately after the programme ended, but also retained an enhanced level six months later.

   And those participants who lost the most weight had the lowest level of morning cortisol, a follow-up study shows. The study will be published in Journal of Exercise Physiology Online in June.
   It is by no means certain that exercise boosts production of the hormone . However, these findings suggest that this is an issue which should be the subject of further research.

   While the group which exercised contained 17 participants, the control group totalled 18 people. The scientists note that this is a small sample on which to base any conclusions.

   Moreover, considerable differences existed between those who took part – not least with regard to the medication they were taking.

Fat and fit
Even with a small reduction in body , increased exercise and a change in diet contribute to a better quality of life for obese people.

   That conclusion has been drawn in a new study described in an article on changes in health-related quality of life through a one-year local authority drive to change lifestyles, published in the Norwegian physiotherapy journal Fysioterapeuten.

   "If you're physically active, you can be in good health even if you're overweight," says physiotherapist Martha Loland, who conducted the study for her MSc in health science at the UiS.

   "The chances of suffering cardio-vascular disease are smaller for obese people who exercise than for those who don't make any effort to keep fit."

Explore further: Weighing up the causes of obesity

More information: "Weight Reduction in Obese Correlates with Low Morning Cortisol Increase". Foss, Brynjar, Sæterdal, Lars Rune, Dyrstad, Sindre Mikal. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, scheduled for publication in volume 17, issue 3, June, 2014.

"Exercise Can Alter Cortisol Responses in Obese Subjects". Foss, Brynjar, Sæterdal, Lars Rune, Nordgård, Oddmund, and Dyrstad, Sindre Mikal. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, volume 17, issue 1, February, 2014.

"Stress in Obesity: Cause or Consequence?" Foss, Brynjar, and Dyrstad, Sindre Mikal. Medical Hypotheses, volume 77, 2011. Abstract: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21444159

Related Stories

Weighing up the causes of obesity

January 18, 2012
Stress can make you fat – and being obese can create stress. A new hypothesis seeks to explain how.

Obese children have higher stress hormone levels than normal-weight peers

December 18, 2013
Obese children naturally produce higher levels of a key stress hormone than their normal weight peers, according to new research accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Diet and exercise combinations to counter type 2 diabetes

May 12, 2014
Obesity puts people at risk of type-2 diabetes. But new research aims to find a combined diet-exercise prescription for keeping the optimal body weight, which may help prevent the disease.

Diet and exercise for knee osteoarthritis produces greater improvement in knee pain, function

September 24, 2013
Among overweight and obese adults with knee osteoarthritis, combining intensive diet and exercise led to less knee pain and better function after 18 months than diet-alone and exercise-alone, according to a study in the September ...

Scientists develop predictor for people prone to obesity

September 19, 2013
Scientists from Monash University's School of Biomedical Sciences have found the stress hormone cortisol may act as a predictor of people susceptible to rapid weight gain.

Attitude during pregnancy affects weight gain

February 26, 2014
Overweight or obese women with the mentality that they are "eating for two" are more likely to experience excessive weight gain while pregnant, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.