It's not exactly the tea bag but it's pretty darn close.

As you may know, tea has been drunk in China since prehistoric times, but it wasn't until the Dutch East India Company brought the stuff to England about 500 years ago that someone decided making a cup would be much easier if the leaves were finely chopped up and put in a small, porous bag. Already a beverage that had countless hardcore Far East consumers, that innovation increased tea's appeal in Europe and made it the beverage more people drink than any other except water for hundreds of years.

In other words, it was a change in the presentation of the substance to a group that hadn't already experienced it or experienced it only rarely that made all the difference.

That concept is why this column is dedicated to the benefits of exercise once again.

In a prior column, I wrote that studies supporting the positive effects of exercise are published at such a rapid rate that a "Fitness Master" column summarizing them is penned about once a season. Since such an article was published merely a month ago, you'd think for the sake of balance I would wait to write more on the topic.

Not a chance.

That's because the research revealed in this article may not only function like the tea bag and increase exercise's appeal to a group who rarely experiences it, but it may also provide a partial solution to our nation's most pressing health-related problem: obesity.

After a series of gloom-and-doom articles this fall that stated those who lose large amounts of weight are more often than not going to regain it primarily because these people have a genetic disposition for gaining body fat a meta-analysis of 45 studies that encompassed 218,166 adults published in the journal PLoS Medicine challenged that. This article reported that even less-than-ambitious exercise counteracts the three byproducts of possessing what's referred to as the "fat" gene: a higher body mass index, a larger waist circumference, and most importantly in my book a higher body fat percentage.

In fact, the effect of the fat gene was reduced by 27 percent even when only the most sedentary people those who hold a sedentary job and do less than one hour of moderate exercise per week were separated from all others in the 45 studies.

This shows that even minimal exercise battles what science previously saw as insurmountable your genetic disposition. I anxiously await further number crunching for the certain skyrocket when those engaged in what I call "ambitious" exercise four or more hours of moderate to intense workouts are compared to the sedentary.

My expectation is that the 27 percent, the first percentage published in PLoS Medicine, will easily double the and that the medical community will announce that there's now a way to negate the tendency to regain weight after successful weight loss: engage in at least five 45- to 60-minute sessions a week of ambitious exercise.

While you await the needed number crunching for such a statement to be made, here are some other recent bits of research that should make you recognize ambitious exercise is the single best way to insure health.

At this year's annual American Institute for Cancer Research conference, speakers attested to both the cancer-fighting effect of exercise and the cancer-causing effect of being sedentary. In fact, research presented there directly linked 50,000 cases of breast cancer and over 40,000 cases of prostate cancer per year to a lack of physical activity.

Another speaker reported on a concept that's equally significant: what is now being called "sitting time," the amount of time during a day that you're seated. In fact, Neville Owen, Ph.D. and head of Behavioral Epidemiology at Australia's Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, said, "Sitting time is emerging as a strong candidate for being a cancer risk factor in its own right. It seems likely that the longer you sit [during a typical day] the higher your risk [of developing cancer.]"

A study published online in the October issue of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases found that African Americans a group that's twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites reduced their risk of getting the diseases by 35 percent simply by exercising three times a week when compared to those exercising one time a week or not at all.

Blacks who exercised three times a week and followed a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet a vegetarian diet that allows the consumption of milk and eggs reduced their risk of developing diabetes by 53 percent. Black vegans the strictest vegetarian diet that allows no animal products to be consumed at all reduced their odds by a whopping 70 percent.