Exercise may not be the key when it comes to controlling weight. According to new research carried out among young adults from five different countries, physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle were not associated with gaining weight.
The research was conducted by scientists at the Loyola University Chicago, and it was published in the journal Peer J.
Weight Gain Not Correlated With Physical Activity
Physical activity could be inefficient when it comes to protecting people from weight gain. While physical activity has been proven to be healthy among all age groups, and it comes with a wide array of benefits, from smaller risks of developing diabetes to preventing heart disease, the new study seems to indicate that it has no say in weight gain.
People who are physically active are found to be healthier and happier, and to live longer. However, while there are numerous reasons why people should stay active, exercising increases appetite, even though it consumes calories. This could make people compensate by eating more when they are more active, or less when they are more sedentary, which could explain why physical activity was not correlated with weight gain in the current research.
"Our study results indicate that physical activity may not protect you from gaining weight," noted Lara R. Dugas, PhD, lead author of the research.
Previous research has indicated that a drop in the overall level of physical activity, associated with a sedentary workplace, is one of the underlying reasons that caused the epidemic of obesity in the United States. However, according to this new study, there is no meaningful correlation between being physically active and gaining weight.
According to other studies, when people are asked about how physically active they are, they tend to report unrealistic levels of physical activity and over-evaluate their own performance. In order for the research to measure the realistic levels of physical activity of the subjects who were part of the current study, they were monitored through a device which recorded their activity. These devices, called accelerometers, recorded the subjects' weight, height, and body fat, along with the activity data, and the subjects wore them for a week.
After the first week, the subjects were asked to return one year later and two years later. The participants in the study were from five different countries: the United States, Ghana, South Africa, Seychelles, and Jamaica, aged between 25 and 40.
Initially, the subjects from Ghana had the lowest weight rates, and the ones from the United States the highest ones. Ghanaians were also the fittest, as 76 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women met the U.S. Surgeon General physical activity guidelines. At the same time, the American subjects were the least fit, as only 44 percent of the men and 20 percent of the women respected the same guidelines.
The results of the research were counterintuitive and contradicted the conclusions of similar studies carried out in the past. The total weight gain for each country was higher among the people who were most active. For instance, American men who had met the guidelines had gained half a pound every year, while the ones who hadn't lost over half a pound.
"From our study it is not evident that higher volumes of PA alone are protective against future weight gain, and by deduction our data suggest that other environmental factors such as the food environment may have a more critical role," noted the research.
Over A Third Of The American Population Are Obese
In the United States, approximately 36.5 percent of the adult population are obese. Among the associated conditions whose underlying cause is obesity, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes are the most serious. There is no correlation between education and obesity among men, but women who have a college degree are less likely to be obese, according to CDC fact sheets.