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Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Date:3/23/2010

s suggest exercising 30 minutes a day to lower the risk of chronic disease.

To find out what levels of physical activity are needed to successfully maintain weight, Lee and her colleagues followed 34,079 women, who averaged 54 years old at the start of the study, for 13 years. The women reported their physical activity and had their weight checked every three years.

Physical activity levels were divided into three categories: 420 minutes a week (60 minutes a day); 150 to 420 minutes a week (about 20 to 60 minutes daily); and less than 150 minutes a week.

Overall, the participants gained an average of 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) over the 13 years, considered average for the general population.

Women in the two lesser categories of exercise gained more weight than those who exercised 60 minutes a day, the study found. There was no difference in weight gain between the two less active groups.

"The successful weight maintainers kept a normal BMI [body mass index] over a long period of time," Lee said, referring to an indicator of body fatness calculated from a person's weight and height. "They gained less than five pounds, and they constantly expended 60 minutes a day in moderate level activity."

Lee stressed that she didn't want people to feel discouraged if they weren't making the 60 minutes a day. "It's very clear that even the lower levels of physical activity reduce the risk of important chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer," she said. "There are still some health benefits."

Eugenio Lopez, a registered nurse with the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center in Corpus Christi, said the study "showed that you do need physical activity just to maintain, let alone lose, actual pounds. ... but they started off with individuals who were already at an ideal body mass index, which is absolutely irrelevant here in South Texas.
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