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Tired of Guessing? New Research Suggests the Amount of Exercise Needed to Prevent Weight Gain

There are many opinions out there on exercise and what you should do, for how long, and at what intensity – especially when it comes to keeping that weight off for good! Recent studies have shown what the most effective "formulas" are. Here are some interesting findings to help you understand how much exercise you need for prevention of long term weight gain.

The United States has seen a severe increase in the amount of overweight and obese adults the past two decades. One in three adults is currently considered obese. It is normal to gain weight as you age. The key is to figure out what steps you can take to maintain a healthy weight and not have to constantly try to lose and maintain weight.

However, compared with the vast body of research on the treatment of overweight and obese individuals, little research exists on preventing weight gain," state the authors of this recent study. "The amount of physical activity needed to prevent long-term weight gain is unclear."

The 15-year study followed weight changes associated with different physical activity levels. The study was comprised of just over 34,000 healthy U.S. women (average age, 54) who consumed a typical diet. At the beginning of the study and at years 3, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 13, women reported their physical activity and body weight. The women were divided into groups, classified as expending less than 7.5, 7.5 to less than 21, and 21 or more metabolic equivalent (MET) hours per week of activity at each time.

The researchers examined physical activity and weight change over intervals averaging 3 years. Over the study time, the women gained an average of 5.7 pounds. BMI was also taken into consideration. Just over 13 percent of the women with a BMI lower than 25 at the start of the study successfully maintained their weight by gaining less than 5.1 lbs. throughout. “Their [average] activity level over the study was 21.5 MET hours per week ([approximately] 60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity)," the researchers write. However, women with a higher BMI showed no correlation and an emphasis on monitoring caloric intake was the recommendation for maintaining their current weight over time.

The researchers also noted that the federal recommendations in 2008 for 150 minutes per week of physical activity will help to lower risks of chronic diseases, but it is insufficient for weight gain prevention.

While these numbers come closer to a conclusion when it comes to exercise and controlling weight, research has also shown that there is no exact science to the art of preventing weight gain. In other words, there is no magical formula for how much exercise you may need to maintain a certain weight.  That is why it is important to pay attention to your body and understand its signs. If you catch it early enough, weight can be controlled per a change in diet or an increase in activity (or both).

However, two things are generally agreed upon in the scientific world.  A combination of healthy eating and moderate exercise are essential to incorporate into daily life.

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