Sleep, feeding patterns and exercise: behaviors that influence body weight

Sleep feeding patterns and exercise. Not surprisingly, all these three aspects of behaviors matter to body weight. Based on the findings reported at the 2016 International Congress on Obesity in Vancouver, chances are we might be doing it all wrong. Bex Chang talks about some of the points raised during the congress.

Sleep for at least 7 hours per day

Sleeping longer, better and earlier can help control body weight, according to one presentation at the conference. Researchers looked at the quality, duration and bed time among kids, adolescents and adults, and concluded that all these parameters associated with sleep affect body weight and metabolic biomarkers such as insulin sensitivity.

Adults are recommended to sleep for at least seven hours per day and studies have found that adults who sleep less than five hours per day are 55% more likely to become obese. Children less than five years old are recommended to sleep at least ten hours per day, and sleeping less can lead to 89% higher risk of obesity.

For those who like to play with smart phones and i-pads at bed, and those who like to stay up late and snack, scientific findings show you will be at higher risk of sleep deprivation, which will increase appetite to energy-dense food.

Chances are you will put on weight! Someone (like myself) might wonder whether this negative effect could be modified by exercises? According to the speaker, they don’t know for sure yet and they are doing more research to find out. So for now the message is to sleep tight and go to bed early!

Parenting practice needs to evolve

Traditional parenting practice, developed in an era of food scarcity, uses feeding as a soothing method for crying babies; the feeding portion is large; children were fed frequently and sometimes forced to eat.

This parenting practice is said to be associated with disrupted sleep among babies, and increased weight and risk of metabolic disorders in their later life.

This parenting practice is said to be associated with disrupted sleep among babies, and increased weight and risk of metabolic disorders in their later life. According to the preliminary results reported at the conference, Responsive Parenting (RP), meaning parents only feed babies corresponding to their request (when they’re actually hungry), will lead to longer sleep duration, slower growth of babies and less weight gain at year one.

This is said to be associated with less metabolic risks in later life and parents are therefore encouraged to adopt a responsive feeding practice. We are of course interested to see the follow-up results in the longer term.

Are you forcing yourself to go intensive?

High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a popular module of exercises. Compared to traditional aerobic or strength training, HIIT has been found to be more effective in burning calories during the same period of a training session.

Research has demonstrated that exercise intensity matters; with more intensive exercises, increased benefits are seen on body composition

Research has demonstrated that exercise intensity matters; with more intensive exercises, increased benefits are seen on body composition (reducing body fat), weight loss, and insulin sensitivity.

However as a person who has been on HIIT program, I personally understand how difficult it is to comply. Cycling at full speed for 20 seconds and break for 20 seconds is not going to provide a very comfortable experience, according to the speaker.

In comparison, with moderate intensity of exercises (such as brisk walking), it takes 45-60 minutes per day to prevent weight gain; and 60-80 minutes per day to lose weight among overweight people. The take home message is that we don’t have to go intense; as long as one can keep it as a habit, and do it for long enough, there are benefits!

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