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Regular Exercise While Young May Slow Middle-Age Spread
Date:12/15/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- People who consistently exercise during their younger years, especially women, are less likely to face the battle of the bulge that less-consistent types struggle with, researchers say.

But regular exercise while young only appeared to prevent later weight gain if it reached about 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, such as running, fast walking, basketball, exercise classes or daily activities like housework, according to a study in the Dec. 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This is the amount of physical activity recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"This encourages people to stick with their active lifestyle and a program of activity over decades," said study lead author Dr. Arlene L. Hankinson, an instructor in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, noting that the study covered 20 years.

"It's important to start young and to stay active but that doesn't mean you can't change. It just may be harder to keep the weight off when you get to be middle-aged," said Marcia G. Ory, a Regents professor of social and behavioral health and director of the Aging and Health Promotion Program at Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in College Station, Texas.

Most of today's research focuses on losing weight, not preventing weight gain in the first place, Hankinson said.

To investigate the latter, this study followed 3,554 men and women aged 18 to 30 at the start of the study, for 20 years. Participants lived in one of four urban areas in the United States: Chicago, Illinois; Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Oakland, California.

After adjusting for various factors such as age and energy intake, men who maintained a high activ
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