Let’s be honest, most of us wish we were half a stone lighter. It’s a weight-loss goal that seems achievable and will almost certainly lead to a slimmer waistline and improved confidence.
But dieticians believe shedding just 7lb will also do wonders for our physical health. Speaking to The Times, Duane Mellor, a researcher and teaching fellow in nutrition at Aston University Medical School, said losing a surplus half stone brings immediate benefits to most people.
“There can be a big improvement to metabolic health and joint health and reduced risk of disease with relatively small amounts of weight loss,” he said. “If you can lose half a stone instead of gaining it in your forties to sixties, then your longevity prospects soar.”
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Roy Taylor, a professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University, said reduced blood fats and cholesterol levels, better sleep patterns and less back pain are some of the benefits that come with initial modest weight loss. Overweight participants in his studies reported huge life improvements after shedding their first 7lbs.
“There were mood improvements and they reported being more mobile and energetic, better able to bound upstairs and generally feel more positive about life,” he added. Here’s what half losing a stone can do for your health:
You will sleep better
According to the NHS, excess weight is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop and start as you sleep., most often when people sleep on their backs. It’s more common in overweight people when it can be the results of gaining excess fatty tissue in the tongue and throat area. which blocks airways when throat muscles relax. Typical symptoms are night-time snoring and day-time sleepiness.
“Losing half a stone will help to reduce neck size through lowering fatty tissue volume, which will mean less snoring,” said Duane Mellor. “Joint alignment will improve, which means the sleeping positions will be more comfortable and you are less likely to wake up.”
It will protect your joints
Being overweight is said to be the “largest modifiable risk factor” for joint problems such as osteoarthritis and knee, hip and ankle pain, according to the Versus Arthritis charity. Carrying 7lb of extra weight can mean an added 30lb of pressure on your knees and other lower body joints.
Bill Ribbans, professor of sports medicine at the University of Northampton, said: “You subject your joints to much more load in everyday life if you are even a few pounds overweight, as activities such as climbing stairs puts pressure on equivalent to multiple amounts of your body weight through your joints.” Hey explained. “Losing half a stone can mean considerably less force going through your joints ever day, which is highly protective.”
Your lung function will be better
A 2020 study in Thorax medical journal tracked 3,673 adults for 20 years, measuring body weight and lung function at the beginning, middle and end of the trial. Nearly two-thirds of the participants gained weight, which led to a deterioration in lung function – no matter how much they weighed at the start.
Among those who were overweight as young adults, their lung health had improved significantly if they lost more than half a pound a year (or just over half a stone). “Weight gain causes increased inflammation in the body, which can adversely influence lung function,” said Professor John Brewer, author of Running Science. Most studies show that controlling or losing weight to a healthy level is important for good lung function.”
Your sex life will improve
Being overweight dampens your libido and energy levels, but lose that weight and your sex life could be transformed. A study of woman showed that losing even modest amounts of weight led to boosted sex drive, improved sexual function and better arousal levels.
Similarly, studies on men have shown links between being overweight and erectile dysfunction, and that weight loss can reverse it. “Being overweight can affect levels of testosterone and losing weight can restore the hormone to healthy levels,” said nutrition therapist Ian Marber.
Back pain will be relieved
Extra weight means extra loading of the spinal discs which can lead to back pain. A study of 2,599 Chinese volunteers found that, in people with back pain, disc degeneration was associated with an elevated BMI and the researchers suggested that in addition to the burden of extra weight, the extra fat cells might play a role by causing chronic low- grade inflammation of the spine.
“Being even a bit overweight can negatively impact metabolic health, which is also associated with higher levels of musculoskeletal pain,” said physiotherapist Chris Martey. “Losing a few pounds if you need to is very helpful for back and joints.”
You will find running easier
Researchers first realized the impact of carrying extra weight 40 years ago when a study by the University of Georgia showed that runners asked to carry an additional half stone in a harness attached to their backs ran 89m less in a 12-minute running trial, meaning they slowed by 1.4 seconds per mile for every additional pound they carried.
A more recent study by exercise scientists at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens showed that losing half a stone resulted in a 3.1% improvement over a 3,000m running trial. “Excess body weight in the form of too much fat is extra baggage and runners pay the penalty for lugging around an extra half stone or more,” said Prof Brewer. “It not only slows them down but affects how efficiently their bodies are able to use oxygen which makes the activity seem harder.”
You want to stabilize your body’s blood sugar levels
In most people of a healthy weight, the hormone insulin slows the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream, suppresses glucose production in the liver and helps muscles to use glucose, all of which keep blood sugar under control. However, excess weight interferes with this process, raising the risk of type 2 diabetes.
As part of a study by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the University of East Anglia, those who lost half a stone and increased their levels of exercise over two years reduced the risk of diabetes by up to 47% for those considered at risk of getting the condition.
Your risk of heart disease will be reduced
Being metabolically healthy means you have the correct levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and waist circumference to protect against heart disease, diabetes and stroke. If you are overweight, your metabolic health usually declines, but even losing a small amount of weight can get you back on track.
Data from 7,670 adults in the United States found that obese adults who lost 20% of their weight were 53% less likely to have metabolic syndrome, the umbrella term for a range of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The study also shows losing just half a stone reduced their risk by 22%.
Your blood pressure will be lowered
Extra weight raises the workload of the heart and increases blood pressure. By losing weight you can lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and significantly reduce high blood pressure. According to the British Heart Foundation, losing weight is all most people need to do to keep blood pressure down.
You will lower your risk of some types of cancer
Too much extra weight raises your risk of some types of cancer, partly by affected levels of hormones that can help cancers develop. For example, fatty tissue it is known to produce excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been linked with raised risks of breast, ovarian, endometrial and other cancers.
“Raised levels of insulin in overweight people are also associated with an increased risk of certain cancers,” said Roy Taylor, a professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University. “These include colon kidney, prostate and endometrial cancers.”
One investigation conducted by the Harvard TC Chan School of Public Health and the American Cancer Society, researchers analyzed data taken from 10 studies on 180,885 women who were 50 and older, tracking them over a 10-year period. During that time there were 6,930 cases of breast cancer.
Women who lost between 4.5kg and 9kg (10-20lbs) of excess weight had a 16% lower risk of breast cancer and those who lost 9kg or more reduced their risk by more than 26%. But woman who lost between 2kg and 4.5kg (4.4lb and 10lbs) also cut their risk of breast cancer by 13%.