Whether you’re an athlete or a fitness enthusiast, you work hard for any improvements you see in your body – from losing weight to cutting time off of your mile. And, just like anything that takes a large investment of time and energy, you are likely concerned with maintaining any and all of those improvements. In fact, guilt after missing some gym-time or cheating on your diet is generally considered part of the price we pay for caring about our fitness.
In the past, however, we’ve talk a lot about the various benefits of the somewhat nebulous “Mediterranean diet” – focusing on fish, fresh vegetables, olive oil and nuts with very little red meat intake. A recent study shows that a combination of both exercise and the Mediterranean diet could have long-lasting health benefits.
The Secret Combination
Of course, we know that the Mediterranean diet and exercise are both very good for you. That much is extremely well-documented and fairly widely accepted. In this study, however, the subjects were split into two groups: one that ate a Mediterranean diet and exercised and one that only exercised.
It’s worth pausing to emphasize the fact that the control group was not made up of people who did not exercise at all, as would be common to this sort of study. Instead, the control group only exercised.
Essentially, then, the study was designed to see whether or not a Mediterranean diet added anything to the already well-known health benefits of exercise.
Both groups followed their routines for 8-weeks and then were simply monitored for another year. Of course, over the course of the study, both groups saw various improvements in their overall health. Of particular note to this study, however, was the oft overlooked factor of endothelial health. These endothelial cells line the inside of everything single blood vessel in your body and keeping them healthy translates to health benefits for your entire cardiovascular system.
A full year after stopping their 8-week long programs, the groups had their endothelial function checked. While both groups saw improvements at the end of the 8 weeks, only the group that followed the Mediterranean diet and exercised maintained those improvements.
Comments and Concerns
While this study does point out some interesting benefits of a health diet and exercise combination, it also raises some concerns. For one, isn’t it possible that these benefits could be seen from any health way of eating combined with regular exercise? More research is needed to answer that question properly.
Also, some might criticize this study since the long-lasting benefits were on a fairly small scale. After all, most people have never even heard of endothelial cells unless they have had related issues in the past. However, endothelial function has a large baring on blood flow which is a factor in just about everything you do. Blood is, you might remember, very important. Despite it’s somewhat modest reputation, the endothelial lining can effect everything from your risk of developing heart disease to your athletic performance.