Exercise and Preventing Weight (Re)Gain

Exercise is one of the best predictors of weight-loss maintenance.
Exercise and Preventing Weight ReGain

Studies have established exercise's role in preventing initial weight gain and preventing regain of weight that has been lost.

While exercise alone as a weight-loss method is of limited value, its role in preventing initial weight gain and preventing regain of weight that has been lost is well established.

Many studies have suggested that the amount of exercise needed to prevent initial weight gain and the level of exercise needed to sustain a weight loss are different. In addition, the amount of exercise required for weight management appears to be greater than the amount needed to achieve general health benefits.

Recommended Levels of Activity
The current recommendation for physical activity encourages adults to do both aerobic and muscle building activities each week, for a weekly total of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic activity, plus resistance training at least twice weekly.1 The majority of people currently don't achieve this goal, which is considered a reasonable and obtainable one that would benefit most people. This level of activity has been linked with limiting the health risks for a number of chronic diseases including coronary heart disease and diabetes.

As part of a consensus statement published by the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO), the recommendation of 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity each day was made to prevent the development of overweight or obesity. The IASO report goes on to recommend obtaining this activity by reducing sedentary behavior and focusing on including lifestyle activities (such as gardening, brisk walking, and household chores) and leisure-time activities into the daily routine.2

Exercise and Sustained Weight Loss
A report from the American College of Sports Medicine notes that regular physical activity is one of the best predictors of weight-loss maintenance.3 In addition, the amount of exercise connected with sustained weight loss is consistent from study to study, and it is a significant amount.

People in the National Weight Control Registry, a database of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept if off for at least one year, report 42 minutes per day (about 290 minutes per week) of moderate intensity physical activity, compared to around 19 minutes per day and 134 minutes per week in obese subjects.4 These people also report that they find activity an enjoyable part of their lives and look at this weight maintaining as a pleasure, not a chore.5 Another study found that 1,500-2,000 calories per week of exercise (equivalent to walking 15-20 miles) is associated with improved weight maintenance.5

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The Weight Watchers Approach:

Weight Watchers recommends increasing the amount of exercise over time, starting with a goal of achieving the health benefits and progressing to the levels linked with maintaining the weight loss at the time when one's ultimate weight goal is achieved.


Other Science Library Topics:

12008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

2Saris WH, Blair SN, van Baak MA, Eaton SB, Davies PS, Di Pietro L, Fogelholm M, Rissanen A, Schoeller D, Swinburn B, Tremblay A, Westerterp KR, Wyatt H. How much physical activity is enough to prevent unhealthy weight gain? Outcome of the IASO 1st Stock Conference and consensus statement. Obes Rev. 2003 May;4(2):101-14.

3Donnelly JE, Blair SN, Jakicic JM, Manore MM, Rankin JW, Smith BK. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Feb;41(2):459-71.

4Catenacci VA, Grunwald GK, Ingebrigtsen JP, Jakicic JM, McDermott MD, Phelan S, Wing RR, Hill JO, Wyatt HR. Physical activity patterns using accelerometry in the National Weight Control Registry. Appropriate intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain in adults. Med Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Jun;19(6):1163-70.

5Fogelholm M, Kukkonen-Harjula K. Does physical activity prevent weight gain ? a systematic review. Obes Rev 1 (2): 95-111, 2000.