A long-term plan to keep off excess pounds starts with regular physical activity in the years between young adulthood and middle age. Arlene L. Hankinson, from Northwestern University (Illinois, USA), and colleagues studied 3,554 men and women, ages v18 to 30 years at the study’s start, enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) prospective longitudinal study with 20 years of follow-up. The team found that high physical activity levels led to less excess weight over the years -- 5.7 fewer pounds (2.6 kg) gained per year in men and 13.4 fewer pounds (6.1 kg) a year for women -- both significant compared with low activity levels. Even sticking with the government guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day had a significant -- though more modest -- effect over two decades. The researchers also encourage people to engage in regular physical activity starting as young adults, as maintaining high activity levels through young adulthood may lessen weight gain as young adults transition to middle age, particularly in women.
Arlene L. Hankinson, Martha L. Daviglus, Claude Bouchard, Mercedes Carnethon, Cora E. Lewis, Pamela J. Schreiner, Kiang Liu, Stephen Sidney. “Maintaining a High Physical Activity Level Over 20 Years and Weight Gain.” JAMA. 2010;304(23):2603-2610.doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1843
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