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A Little Exercise
Goes A Long Way
To Better Health

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, April 18, 2008

Just recently we ran a letter from Tom Church, President of Church Brothers, LLC, as part of a piece entitled, FDA Status Quo Cannot Stand, which dealt with the FDA’s behavior in the Honduras cantaloupe incident.

We had previously discussed the real life experience of a false positive and what it could do to a business in a piece entitled, Church Brothers/True Leaf Recalls, Then ‘Unrecalls’ Spring Mix/Arugula After Testing Mishap.

Today we have the pleasure of talking about Tom Church and not mentioning food safety. In fact, we can give Tom a chance to kvell over the achievements of his oldest son, Timothy Church, age 40.

Timothy is an MD, a PhD, and the director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. Perhaps more to the point, he is also the former medical director of The Cooper Institute in Dallas.

The Cooper referenced in that name is Kenneth H. Cooper, and it is fair to say that Cooper invented Aerobics when he published a book by that name and set up the Cooper Aerobics Center.

In any case, Timothy and his colleagues, Tedd Mitchell and Martin Zucker, have written a book entitled, Move Yourself: The Cooper Clinic Medical Director’s Guide to All the Healing Benefits of Exercise (Even a Little!).

The basic thesis of the book is that people can benefit enormously from even small amounts of exercise, although the book also goes into nutrition.

USA Today picked up on the book and published a big piece on it:

ACTION SPEAKS OF HEALTH LOUDER THAN WEIGHT

Timothy Church, his wife, Natalie; daughter, Lucy Jean;
and son, Charlie, at play.

Exercise can shrink your waistline and reduce the belly fat shown in recent studies to be so toxic, even if you don’t lose much weight.

That is the conclusion reached by exercise expert Timothy Church and colleagues in a new book, Move Yourself: The Cooper Clinic Medical Director’s Guide to All the Healing Benefits of Exercise (Even a Little).

“You can lose a lot of waist without losing a lot of weight,” says Church, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and former medical director of the Cooper Institute in Dallas. That’s important because belly fat, also called visceral or intra-abdominal fat, is considered particularly dangerous, he says. Research has indicated that people with too much fat in their midsection are at greater risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Walking the weight off

Church and his co-authors — Tedd Mitchell, medical director at the Cooper Clinic, and health writer Martin Zucker — reviewed research conducted at the Cooper Institute. The institute focuses on research into physical activity and health, and the clinic offers consultation and treatment.

In one study, 464 postmenopausal women were directed to do different amounts of exercise, most of it walking. The four subgroups were sedentary or exercised about 73, 135 or 193 minutes a week. The women who were active lost 1 to 2 inches around their middles, even if they didn’t lose much weight. They noticed that their pants fit better, Church says.

Other research has yielded similar findings. Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that men and women who adhere to an exercise program for a year — about 45 to 60 minutes a day of walking, five to six days a week — had significant decreases in total body fat and belly fat.

The exercisers who did the most — 60 minutes, six days a week — decreased their intra-abdominal fat by 10%, says Anne McTiernan, an internist and director of the Prevention Center at Fred Hutchinson.

Regular exercisers should realize that even “if they don’t see big changes on the scales or in their measurements, they are still getting big health benefits,” McTiernan says. “We saw a decrease in hormones and other factors that contribute to cancer.”

Fat cells in the abdomen secrete chemicals that play a role in a number of diseases, Church says. “This deep visceral fat in the belly produces six times more bad chemicals than subcutaneous fat, the stuff you can pinch right under your skin.

“Plus, the plumbing of visceral fat drains directly to the liver, where these chemicals interfere with the liver’s ability to metabolize blood sugar and cholesterol.”

Danger at 35 or 40 inches

Men have too much fat around their middle if their waist is 40 inches or more. For women, it’s 35 inches or more, Church says.

Besides reducing belly fat, physical activity lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of diabetes and cancer. It reduces depression and anxiety, and it improves bone and joint health, sex drive, sleep and memory, he says.

But Church notes that fewer than 25% of Americans meet the minimum guidelines of being moderately active for 30 minutes five or more days a week, estimates show.

“The average American doesn’t understand that other than not smoking, exercise is the most important thing you can do for your health,” Church says. “They think exercising is a health suggestion on par with leaving mayonnaise off their sandwich.”

He highly recommends wearing a step counter and keeping a physical activity log, especially at the beginning of an exercise program, because these tools help quantify current exercise levels and identify opportunities for activity throughout the day.

Church is always looking for ways to do more. He used to train for Ironman triathlons, but now that he has children, 3 and 5 years old, he jogs for 30 to 35 minutes two to three days during the week. On weekends, he and his wife put their kids in a jogger and go out for fast walk/jog for an hour or more. And they plan active weekends, such as walking around the zoo for an afternoon.

“The bottom line is that most people do not appreciate that exercising, even a little, is the quick fix that they are looking for to improve their health and quality of life.”

One of the great challenges for the produce industry is how, precisely, to tie together the message of diet and exercise. It may be that the more moderate approach this book emphasizes may be more easily integrated into a general lifestyle pitch.

We look forward to reading the book and congratulate the author… and his Dad.

You can buy a copy here.

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