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University of Missouri

Eat Better & Move More

Mizzou research offers timely tips for getting and staying healthy.

Everyone knows you should eat better and move more. But did you know the timing of eating and exercising matters? Researchers at the University of Missouri study health from myriad angles. Some of their findings make intuitive sense; we took a look at ones that might surprise you.

illustration of active brain

Brain Moves

Activity is great, but what it my family can't live at the park?

Recognizing that children are becoming obese or overweight at greater rates, Steve Ball, BA ’94, MA ES ’97, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology and MU Extension specialist, has spearheaded the adoption of Brain Breaks, a series of online videos teachers can show in class that leads students through short exercises, which is now used in more than 1,000 classrooms in more than 300 Missouri schools. He also leads Active and Healthy Schools, a program in which schools emphasize healthy habits through wall posters, outfit kids with pedometers and zone outside play areas to accommodate multiple student interests, such as swings and slides, sports, or quiet play. Ball’s research shows the program increases the duration of physical activity at school by 10 minutes and increases the frequency that children eat fruit (31 percent) and vegetables other than salad (43 percent). The benefits of activity aren’t confined to the young. Ball leads the MU Extension program Stay Strong, Stay Healthy, which puts older adults through 10 weeks of strength training. Participants report improved strength, flexibility and balance.

illustration of aliens in a grocery store

Location, Location, Location

What do I do when the nearest produce department is two towns and 10 miles over?

People who live near where healthful foods are for sale have a lower risk for obesity and diet-related diseases. About 8 percent of people in rural areas lack access to healthful foods. Of those, roughly one-third are low-income. That is why MU’s Bill McKelvey, MS ’07, coordinates the Grow Well Missouri project, which distributes seed packets and education material to rural food pantries so people can grow their own fresh produce. Eighty-seven percent of people who picked up the seed packets established gardens, and 91 percent shared produce with family, friends and neighbors.

illustration of a person crossing off days on a calendar

What Have You Done Lately?

I ran a 10k last month. Isn't my exercise quotient satisfied for a while?

Not quite. Your body’s ability to function well depends in part on how much you exercise — but also on how recently. In collaboration with colleagues, Frank Booth, professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine, found that making active, healthy adults sedentary for three days led to blood sugar spikes similar to those seen in habitually sedentary people. Booth saw the same phenomenon in body weight in mice. In lab tests, active, juvenile mice that were prevented from running on an exercise wheel for seven days caught up in weight to mice that had never had an exercise wheel.

illustration of a banana holding a stopwatch

Timing is Everything

I know it's important to eat right and exercise, but does it matter when I do it?

Actually, it does. Protein increases satiety — it makes us feel full longer and reduces food cravings. In a study giving participants a protein-filled breakfast (eggs and beef in this case), subjects improved their appetite control and reduced evening snacking, says Heather Leidy, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology. Not eating after 7 p.m. helped people with fatty liver disease limit overeating and reduce their body weight by about 10 percent in a study by Elizabeth Parks, professor of nutrition and exercise physiology. Study subjects also limited the sugar in their diet, as sugars are made into body fat later in the day. The combined intervention resolved or eliminated liver fat during the six-month program. Just as some prescription medications need to be taken at certain times, the effectiveness of exercise also appears to depend on timing, says Jill Kanaley, professor and associate chair of nutrition and exercise physiology. In her recent study, Type 2 diabetics reduced their triglyceride levels — circulating fat in the blood, high levels of which are associated with heart disease — by 92 percent when they exercised after dinner rather than before. But she is quick to add that exercise at any time is better than none at all.