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50+: Live Better, Longer

Move More, Gain Less Weight With Age

High Activity Levels Over Time Reduce Weight Gain With Age, Study Finds
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Physical Activity and Weight Gain: The Study continued...

"Men who had low activity gained 28 pounds over the 20 years and men who had high activity gained 22 pounds over the 20 years."

Only 11% of the women and 12% of the men in the highest activity group at the study start kept it up over the 20 years. Over the 20 years, nearly 37% met the 150-minute a week goal.

When she looked at the 150-minute a week group, she found "women who didn't have 150 minutes of physical activity a week gained 32 pounds over 20 years; women who did gained 22 pounds. Men who didn't get 150 minutes gained 29 pounds; men who did gained 26 pounds."

Those in the high activity group also had smaller gains in waist circumference with age.

Physical activity included not just sports and other formal exercise but also occupational activity and home maintenance.

''Physical activity is something everyone can do in some form," Hankinson tells WebMD.

Move More, Gain Less: Second Opinion

The new study findings are scientifically sound and are important, says Tim Church, MD, PhD, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. He reviewed the study findings for WebMD but was not involved in the research.

"It brings some more balance to the discussion [about the obesity epidemic],'' he says. Often, people zero in on food only, he says. "Here's more evidence that physical activity clearly has a role in preventing weight gain. The optimal way to control weight is both through diet and physical activity."

The link found by Hankinson between lesser weight gain among highly active people may be more encouraging than at first glance, he says. He points out that the study followed them only to ages 38 to 50. "I would expect to see bigger group differences [between low and high activity groups] as the groups continue to age," he says.

Minimizing weight gain is just one reason to stay active with age, he says. "You are going to be able to get around easier" if you stay active with age, he says.

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