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Exercise Beats Dieting to Maintain Long-Term Weight Loss

According to a recent study published in Obesity, being physically active is even more important than dieting to prevent rebound pounds.

When counseling your patients who’ve lost weight on how to keep it off, be sure to encourage regular exercise. According to a recent study published in Obesity, being physically active is even more important than dieting to prevent rebound pounds.

What Did The Study Find?

In the study, 106 subjects were divided into three groups: Weight-loss maintainers, those who’ve maintained a weight loss of approximately 30 pounds for a year or more; normal-weight controls, people at a similar weight to the WLMs but without a history of obesity or being overweight; and overweight/obesity controls, people with a body mass index similar to what the WLMs had before losing weight.

The successful weight-loss maintainers and the normal weight controls weighed around 150 pounds; subjects in the overweight and obesity group each weighed about 213 pounds. The researchers measured and tracked everyone’s body weight, waist circumference, fat mass, fat-free mass, resting energy expenditure, resting metabolic rate, physical activity energy expenditure, and total daily energy expenditure in each of the three groups. To measure total daily energy expenditure, the researchers used the doubly labeled water method, considered the gold standard.

Using an activPAL activity monitor, everyone tracked their daily steps by wearing the device for at least ten hours each day for seven consecutive days. Overall, the weight-loss maintainer group walked the most, an average of 12,000 steps per day (roughly six miles), compared with 9,000 steps per day for the normal weight group and 6,500 steps per day for the overweight/obese participants. Another important finding: The weight-loss maintainers consumed and burned about 300 more calories a day than the other two groups. Compared to only the overweight/obese subjects, the weight-loss maintainers burned about 180 calories more each day through physical activity.

What Does This Mean For Patients?

“Our findings suggest that this group of successful weight-loss maintainers are consuming a similar number of calories per day as individuals with overweight or obesity but appear to avoid weight regain by compensating for this with high levels of physical activity,” the researchers said.

They noted that the big issue with weight loss is that moving around excess weight burns calories. When patients lose weight, they burn fewer calories at rest and during exercise. To prevent regaining weight, weight loss maintainers must either must permanently eat less or exercise more to compensate for the reduction in their energy expenditure. According to this study, exercise is the more sustainable and effective option.

On the other hand, for patients trying to lose weight, restricting calories and increasing exercise are both effective strategies. For example, a related study found that taking 10,000 steps daily (walking roughly 5 miles), with at least 3,500 steps at a moderate to vigorous pace, is associated with enhanced weight loss.

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