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Am J Prev Med. 2000 Jan;18(1):83-6.

The quantity and quality of physical activity among those trying to lose weight.

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  • 1West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown 26506, USA.



Regular exercise to elicit caloric expenditure is an important component for achieving weight loss. The Healthy People 2000 objectives recommend regular sustained physical activity lasting 30 minutes, five days per week (Objective 1.3) particularly for weight loss. Moreover, this recommendation has been restated for weight loss and overall health benefits in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / American College of Sports Medicine (CDC/ACSM) statement and Surgeon General's Report (SGR) on Physical ActivitY and Health. Thus, we sought to identify the relative quality, and quantity of physical activity among people trying to lose weight.


Cross-sectional self-reported data from the West Virginia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) were used. The BRFSS is a state-based telephone survey of adults that uses a multistage cluster design based on the Waksberg method of random-digit dialing. Data froM 2769 men and 4490 women were obtained from the 1992, 1994, and 1996 surveys.


Half (49.6%) of individuals trying to lose weight did not engage in any physical activity. Further, only 15% of respondents trying to lose weight reported exercising regularly. Nevertheless, those trying to lose weight were more likely (OR [odds ratio] = 1.3; 95% CI [confidence interval], 1.14, 1.51, p < 0.001) to exercise regularly than those not trying to lose weight. In particular, women trying to lose weight were significantly more likely (OR = 1.45; 95% CI, 1.22,1.74, p < 0.001) to exercise regularly than women not trying to lose weight. Conversely, men trying to lose weight were no more likely to exercise regularly (p = .23) than men not trying to lose weight. Among respondents who were using exercise for weight loss, only 14.7% were expending > or =1000 kcal/week and 18.2% were expending > or =500 kcal/week. Weekly expenditure rates of > or =1000 kcal/week were more likely to occur among men (17%) than women (13.8%), in younger age groups, and among those with higher educational attainment.


These data suggest that while certain individuals trying to lose weight are more likely to engage in regular physical activity, most persons trying to lose weight have not adopted regular physical activity as part of their weight loss practice. These results suggest that public health efforts to effectively integrate physical activity into weight control practices of West Virginians have been minimally successful.

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