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Obesity Does Slow People Down, Study Confirms

Women may be caught in cycle of fatigue, lack of self-esteem, expert says
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Women who struggle with chronic obesity end up engaging in less and less routine physical activity, new research shows, confirming what may seem obvious to some.

The investigating team acknowledged that their observation so clearly aligns with conventional wisdom that it would be hard to describe it as "rocket science." But they say theirs is the first study to rigorously establish what most scientists have long presumed to be the case: that obesity does indeed have a negative impact on an individual's activity habits.

"An abundance of research has focused on factors that increase [the risk for] obesity, due to the many chronic diseases and conditions associated with it," said study lead author Jared Tucker, currently a senior epidemiologist at the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. "And rightly so."

"However, physical inactivity is also independently associated with many of the same chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes," Tucker added. "But we don't often think about factors that influence activity levels."

Tucker was a graduate student when the research, reported online recently in the journal Obesity, was conducted.

"Our study suggests that obesity likely increases the risk of reducing physical activity levels in women," Tucker said. "Therefore, it appears that physical inactivity and obesity may be involved in a feedback loop, in which lower levels of activity lead to weight gain, which then leads to lower levels of activity."

To explore how obesity could depress activity levels among women, the authors focused on more than 250 middle-aged women living in the Mountain West region of the United States. Roughly half the participants were diagnosed as obese.

Rather than ask the women to self-report their activity routines -- a study method that can undermine reliability -- the team attached belt-strapped accelerometers to all the study participants. The small device measures movement of various accelerations and intensities. For a week, all the women were told to wear the straps throughout their day, except when exposed to water, such as while showering.

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