Just an hour a day keeps the weight away

Posted by on Mar 26, 2010 in physical fitness, weight, weight gain | 2 comments

Yikes! Seems like every time you turn around, there’s another study upping the ante on exercise. Last year, I wrote about 2005 USDA guidelines suggesting that adults need about 60 to 90 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for health and weight maintenance, i.e. at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily to stave off gradual, unhealthy body weight combined 30 minutes daily can help prevent chronic diseases.  To achieve optimal physical fitness, the recommendations suggested the incorporation of cardiovascular conditioning, weight training, and resistance exercise to improve strength and endurance. Conversely, 2008 Federal Guidelines suggested that adults needed about 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise to maintain health, while the Institute of Medicine suggested 60 minutes a day to prevent weight gain. Confused yet?

Researchers followed a group of over 34,000 women (mean age ~54) for 13 years, examining their amount and type of weekly physical activity (e.g. high versus low intensity), body weight, height, menopausal status, use of hormones or not, chronic disease, alcohol use, smoking and diet. (If you’re wondering, high intensity refers to running. bicycling, aerobic exercise or dance or use of aerobic machines, while low intensity refers to yoga, stretching, tennis, squash or racquetball, and lap swimming.)

Overall, study findings showed that on n average and regardless of physical activity level, women gained almost 6 pounds over the course of the study. However, women who exercised anywhere from 2.5 hours to less than 7  hours a week gained significantly more weight then women who exercised at least 7 hours a week (or one hour a day). In fact, women who exercised less than an hour a day were significantly more likely to gain at least 5 pounds over the first three years of the study. Note that these results apply only to normal weight women (body mass index <25).

I’ve recently increased my level of physical activity to an hour a day, not because of these study results but because I’ve been unhappy about the hormonally-driven tire that’s starting to appear around my midsection. I must tell you; it’s a huge time commitment. Undoubtedly, if you are busy in your career or with your children, finding an hour a day to exercise can be difficult. What remains unclear is whether or not this hour can be divided into increments.

What do you think? Do you have the time? Are you motivated? Or does this information discourage you?


  1. 3-26-2010

    My understanding is that doing things in increments does help. The varying heart rates keeps you healthy. Of course, do I remember a study that actually says this? Ummm, no

    • 3-26-2010

      You are probably right Deanna. Any little bit helps. I appreciate your comment. Thank you!


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