Monday, June 21, 2010

Weight Loss from Activity Only Works in Thin Middle Age Women

Talk about a cruel trick of nature!  A study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in JAMA shows that physical activity prevents weight gain in middle-aged and older women ONLY IF THEY ARE ALREADY AT IDEAL WEIGHT.  Did you read that?  It means that the recommended guidelines advocating 150 minutes of exercise a week isn't sufficient to prevent weight gain in most middle age women.

The Harvard associated researchers assessed weight changes associated with various levels of physical activity on 34,079 women who had been followed since 1992 in the Women's Health Study.  They stratified women as inactive (less than 150 minutes a week of moderate level physical activity), intermediately active or highly active if they performed a high, strenuous level of activity.  All three groups showed similar weight gain over a mean 13 years of follow up.

Despite exercise, there was no correlation between activity level and weight gain except in the subgroup of women with Body Mass Index (BMI) below 25.  Only in those already thin women did a high level of activity prevent weight gain.

So what are we to think about this study?  First, caloric restriction is the only way to maintain or lose weight.  The health benefits of exercise have been proven over and over in thousands of studies and that is not in dispute.  But weight control demands caloric restriction, period.

I am sorry about these results. Truly I am.

(JAMA 2010;303:1173-9)

24 comments:

jo said...

Starve & sweat just turned into STARVE, THEN SWEAT !

Mrs/Dr said...

It is depressing, isn't it? It is likely a function of the intensity of exercise too. Higher intensity exercise (e.g., running, spinning) is inversely related to weight gain in middle aged women. But even with higher intensity exercise, diet is more important.

Thought you might be interested in one of my recent posts on the relationship between gut bacteria and body weight. It just keeps getting more complicated!

http://thedecadeofshe.blogspot.com/2010/06/are-bacteria-in-your-colon-influencing.html

KM said...

This is discouraging, depressing, and confusing to know how much exercise to do in a week and on a daily basis that is recommended for other areas of good health then.

Health Magazine said...

It is surprising to find that physical activity does not really prevent weight gain in contrast to popular belief. Nature has many surprises that we are yet to understand, however.

Thanks for sharing a useful info.

tracy said...

i wonder how many millions were spent on this study that i think we already knew the answers to......

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

Middle aged man here but found this an interesting follow up to a conversation my business partner and I just had with a gastroenterologist in Mexico City. We were discussing bariatric surgery and the follow up and he stressed that on average only 15% of weight loss comes from exercise - the other 85% comes from reducing calorie intake. While this does not reduce the other benefits of exercise it certainly prompted us to order grilled fish and salad.

stop smoking help said...

It has to be a balance. Think of it this way, if you take in 3500 calories and only burn off 200 through exercise, you're going to gain weight. With that said, the exercise is important for other aspects of health like osteoporosis, heart disease, etc. But then an appropriate diet with portion control dramatically helps with the weight. Now, lets say you only take in 1800 calories but are burning 200 per day. Now you have something manageable. Why does it take a study to figure this kind of stuff out.

Lets teach this kind of math to our kids so they can strike that balance earlier in life.

Mark said...

Yep - cannot agree more. It's some fairly simple math if you think about it. I think it's great to teach the kids, but a of us baby boomers need this lesson too. The new math we got was not as practical.

Friends at Bayou Bend Towers said...

I agree that caloric restriction is key to weight loss, but I think the recommended levels of physical activity are way too low. 150 minutes of physical activity/week is only about 20 minutes/day. If the rest of the day, the only thing moving on your body is your fingers on a keyboard, you are probably not burning enough calories to justify eating more than a a slice of toast and a couple of apples/day!

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