Why exercise is not enough to prevent weight gain


EXERCISE on its own — without also following a healthy diet — isn’t enough to help people lose or even just maintain their weight, a recent study suggests. The new results run counter to the idea that the obesity epidemic in the U.S. is caused by a lack of physical activity, said lead study author Lara Dugas, an assistant professor of public health sciences at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
When it comes to figuring out the causes of obesity, “what we really need to look at is what people are eating,” Dugas told Live Science. Previous research, for example, has linked a greater risk of obesity with the consumption of high-calorie food and sweetened beverages, she said. [How to Lose Weight in 2017 (and Keep It Off for Good)]
In the new study, the researchers found that the amount of time people spent exercising per week didn’t seem to play a role in how well those people controlled their weight.
In fact, some of the people who exercised more than others in the study actually gained weight over the two-year study period, while some of those who exercised less than others lost weight over the same period, according to the study, which was published in January in the journal PeerJ.
The findings suggest that “physical activity was not enough to prevent weight gain,” Dugas said. The new study examined more than 1,900 people in the U.S., Ghana, South Africa, Jamaica and the Seychelles (an island nation in the Indian Ocean). At the beginning of the study, the researchers asked all of the study participants to wear tracking devices for one week to measure how much time they spent exercising.
The researchers used the data to see whether the people in the study met the U.S. Surgeon General’s physical activity guidelines, which recommend that people exercise at a moderate pace for at least 2 and a half hours per week.
The researchers also measured each participant’s weight, height and body fat three times: at the start of the study, one year later and two years later. [Dieters, Beware: 9 Myths That Can Make You Fat]
When the study began, the participants in Ghana weighed the least, on average, and those from the U.S. weighed the most, according to the study. The average weight of both the men and women in Ghana was 139 lbs. (63 kilograms), while the average weight of American men was 206 lbs. (93 kg) and of American women, 202 lbs. (92 kg).

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