Surprising factors that may keep you thin
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to stay trim effortlessly, while many Americans struggle with their weight? Sure, genetics and a healthy lifestyle play a large role, but other, more surprising correlations may help people stay slim.
Live near a gym: A recent study in Lancet Public Health found that people living within a little more than half a mile of physical activity facilities -- including gyms, swimming pools and playing fields -- weighed less and had smaller waists than those who didn't.
The difference was also greater in women and those with higher incomes. The study was observational, so it does not prove cause and effect.
Other research has found that more walkable neighborhoods are also associated with lower weight.
Shopping: When rifling through racks of clothes or bins of school supplies, know that an hour of shopping can burn about 180 calories. And if you go grocery shopping for that amount of time, all the heavy lifting can help you burn closer to 260 calories.
Fidget a lot: A review article nearly a decade ago found that people with the highest levels of spontaneous physical activity, including fidgeting, tend to weigh less.
Although fidgeting has a strong genetic and biological component, increasing non-exercise-related physical activity can also play a significant role in keeping people trim. It is even more important in our modern environment, filled with labor-saving devices, televisions and technology.
A 2003 study found that the impact of mechanization and labor-saving devices led to a 111-calorie reduction in daily energy expenditure. Unless this reduction is offset by increased activity, it could lead to significant weight gain over time.
Standing while working: For overweight women and men, standing instead of sitting at the desk burns about two more calories a minute and can lead to a weight loss of 16 to 20 pounds a year, according to Mira Rasmussen, an exercise physiologist at the Obesity Action Coalition, an obesity advocacy group.
Eat spicy food: You may notice that your naturally slim friends are those who eat extra-spicy sauces or foods, which may not be a coincidence. Observational data show that eating spicier foods is associated with less obesity.
Capsaicin, a major bioactive compound present in chili peppers, may play a role in weight control in several ways, including reducing appetite, activating heat-generating and calorie-burning brown fat, increasing the use of fat as fuel and modestly increasing metabolism.
Also, spicy food seems to keep people healthier. A Chinese study found that those who ate spicy food six to seven times per week versus once or less per week were 14 percent less likely to die from any cause.
Numerous other spices including cumin, ginger, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon and turmeric may also play a role in helping you stay slim by reducing inflammation, improving your body's response to insulin and improving the composition of bacteria in your gut.
Live at a higher elevation: According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado has the lowest rate of obesity in the United States, and there may be a good reason why: the altitude.
A 2013 article in the International Journal of Obesity found lower obesity rates in those living at higher elevations. The study's authors suggest that lower oxygen levels, higher metabolic demands at higher altitudes and increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system (which may reduce appetite) are all possible causes of this finding, but a definitive explanation has yet to be fully established.
Live in a big city: The study that looked at elevation and weight also found that people who lived in big cities, defined as metro counties with a population of one million or greater, had a significantly lower risk of obesity compared with those living in smaller metro, non-metro or rural counties.
The authors suggest that food security, increased walkability of larger metro areas and better diet may explain these findings.
But their conclusions are contradicted by other studies that have shown urbanization may lead to obesity, especially in children and low-income populations.
According to the Harvard School for Public Health, this is probably due to increased access to high-calorie foods (especially fast food), more passive transportation (less walking), less open space, more mass media marketing of unhealthy foods and less work-related physical activity.
Even if you don't fall into those categories, you don't need to move to the mountains of Nepal to stay slim but spicing up your diet and making an effort to move more on a daily basis could certainly help.
And if you don't live in a big city or near an exercise facility, a healthy lifestyle -- including daily exercise, less sedentary behavior, better sleep and a healthful diet -- will help keep you lean, regardless of your environment.
By Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNN via the CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.
The Gayly. 2/25/2019 @ 8:12 a.m. CST.