Even a Little Exercise Fights Obesity
Survey Shows 1 to 2 Days a Week of Exercise Has Benefits for Physical and Mental Health
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 6, 2009 -- While frequent exercise is known to fight obesity and
improve mental health, as little as 30 minutes of physical activity one or two
days a week can have benefits, according to the 2009 Gallup-Healthways
The Well-Being Index is based on nearly 288,000 phone interviews of people
18 and older. It shows the number of days a person exercises for at least 30
minutes is strongly connected with the likelihood of obesity:
- Not exercising in a given week was associated with a 35% incidence of
- Exercising for 30 minutes, 1-2 days a week, was associated with a 28%
incidence of obesity
However, the survey also showed that those who exercised every day were
slightly more likely to be obese (20%) than those who say they
exercised five or six days (19%).
Gallup-Healthways analyst Brett W. Pelham, author of the 2009 report, tells
WebMD in an email that "exercising several days a week seems about as good, and
arguably is better, than exercising every day, especially when you consider
return on investment."
The survey also looked at the connection between the number of days of
exercise and quality of life; it included questions to determine if people felt
they were struggling, suffering, or thriving in life. As little as a half-hour
daily of exercise for one or two days seemed to help their
People who exercised more frequently had a higher payoff in their
evaluation-of-life response, according to the report. Once again, there was a
substantial drop for those who exercised every day.
According to the Gallup survey report, the data cannot tell us whether
exercise leads to high well-being or whether high well-being leads to exercise,
but they do suggest that getting the maximum amount of exercise may not promote
further gains in well-being.
Exercise and Emotional Health
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index also contains a measure of emotional
health, based on 10 daily experiences, such as smiling or laughing a lot or
being treated with respect the day before they were interviewed.
Those who didn't exercise at all earned a score of 74, compared to higher
scores for those who worked out one or two days per week or more. Yet,
for those who report having exercised every day, the survey showed slightly
lower Emotional Health Index scores than those who say they exercised
five to six days. Again, the score dropped for people who said they exercised
seven days a week.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index also examined depression and found it
too was related to exercise. People who report not having exercised in the past
week are almost twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression as those
who claim to have exercised five to six days, the report says.