Beliefs about diet and exercise may dictate weight

Quick! What’s the cause of obesity — a lack of exercise or overeating?

Your answer might be a reflection of your current body shape.

Researchers from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology found that people who believe diet is most implicated in obesity have a lower BMI (body mass index, one screening tool used by health professionals to determine possible weight problems). Those who believe lack of exercise is behind obesity tended to have a higher BMI.

BMI is a slightly controversial screening tool, as it doesn’t take into account actual body fat readings, but instead relies on height and weight to determine a person’s risk. To find your BMI, click here.  A lower BMI generally means a lower body weight.

The study, published in Psychological Science (the journal of the Association for Psychological Science), found that data from those surveyed in the United States, Korea and France showed the same patterns — if study participants believed diet was the culprit of being overweight, they tended to weigh less than those who believed exercise was key.

The study authors said that surveyed Canadians who thought exercise played the major role in weight ate significantly more chocolates than those who linked obesity to diet, as did those from Hong Kong.

As a personal trainer, I often struggle to help clients realize they can’t exercise away a poor diet. They kill it in the gym and get fitter, but unless they change their eating patterns the scale doesn’t budge much. Exercise helps people lose weight — and, importantly, maintain their weight — but real weight-loss results come with dietary changes.

Get a brain boost with yoga

Have a big test coming up, or going to a function where you have to remember a lot of names? Try a short yoga session to help boost your memory.

In a study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, brain function was stimulated immediately after a 20-minute yoga session. The study participants performed significantly better after the yoga session than after doing cardio for the same amount of time.

The study, conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, had female college undergrads do a series of yoga poses while standing, seated, and then lying on the floor, and concluded with a relaxation exercise. For the cardio session, the women either walked or jogged on a treadmill, maintaining 60 to 70 percent of their maximum heart rate.

After the exercise sessions, they were tested on their cognitive function and reaction time. Following yoga, the women did better on the test. After the cardio session, their functioning showed no improvement over baseline.

The researchers, from the university’s department of kinesiology and community health, said similar results have also been found with older adults.

The takeaway? As a trainer, I’ve always said yoga helps you do everything else that you do even better, and apparently that fact has application beyond your physical performance. Adding some yoga to your regimen — even short bouts — definitely can’t hurt, and most likely will have affects spilling into other areas of your life.