Exercising an hour daily can help women maintain weight
According to a new study, women need to exercise for an hour everyday to maintain an ideal weight. The recommendation, from the Journal of the American Medical Association, claimed to address women with normal weights who wanted to maintain them, without dieting.
But – apart from the fact that it would seem unreasonable to many women – the recommendation adds further fuel to the ongoing debate about how much exercise is necessary to maintain weight. Other recommendations suggest about 35 minutes exercise daily, which, if valid, still call for dedicated effort.
The research involved data collected from more than 34,000 American women aged around 54 at the start of the study. Their activity level and weight, along with details such as smoking habits and menopausal status, were studied for 13 years. The women studied gained an average of 5.7 pounds during this period.
Women with ideal weight levels when the study began, who ensured exercise of moderate intensity for about an hour daily, maintained their weight. The amount of exercise is three times that recommended by the US government for reducing the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Moderate intensity exercise was defined by the researchers as including walking, hiking, running, cycling, aerobics, dancing, yoga, swimming, playing sports such as tennis or squash, or exercising with machines. The list did not include activities such as working in the house or gardening.
Lead author, Dr I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who is also associate professor of medicine, Harvard University, said the advice is specifically for those who are not dieting. Those who could not put in the required exercise would need some form of diet control, she explained.
While research in men shows they need less exercise to maintain their weight, the exact amount of exercise required by women to maintain weight is not established.
An expert, Dr Samuel Klein of the Center for Human Nutrition, Washington University School of Medicine, who was not part of the research, said the study did not establish that the specified level of exercise is the only important feature for weight maintenance. He said that it was possible other factors played a role.
He said women who began exercising would also eat better and make other choices that would help maintain weight, and so, the study could not establish that only exercise was necessary. Energy balance could be complex, he said, explaining that exercise could make some people eat more and tire others so that they are prevented from further activity.
Dr Joseph E Donnelly, who is director of the Energy Balance Laboratory at the University of Kansas, said that the few reputable studies that had researched weight maintenance had indicated required weekly exercise durations of about 200 to 250 minutes. He said that in the absence of randomized studies, wide individual variations could make it difficult to decide what could prevent weight gain.
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