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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;67(9):944-9. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2013.98. Epub 2013 May 22.

Effects of exercise during the holiday season on changes in body weight, body composition and blood pressure.

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Department of Nutrition, Hospitality, and Retailing, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX, USA.



Identifying critical periods of greater weight gain could provide useful information to combat the obesity epidemic. We tested whether body weight (BW), body fat percentage (BF%) and blood pressure (BP) changed during the holiday season (thanksgiving to new year's day) and the impact of regular exercise on these parameters.


A total of 48 males and 100 females (age 18-65 years) with a mean body mass index of 25.1±0.5 kg/m(2) were evaluated in mid-November (visit 1) and early January (visit 2; across 57±0.5 days). Anthropometric data, BF%, BP and self-reported exercise were recorded.


Participants showed significant increases in BW (0.78±0.1 kg, P<0.001, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.57-0.99), BF% (0.5±0.2%, P=0.007, 95% CI: 0.12-0.77), systolic blood pressure (SBP; 2.3±1.2 mm Hg, P=0.048, 95% CI: 0.01-4.63) and diastolic blood pressure (1.8±0.8 mm Hg, P=0.028, 95% CI: 0.20-3.49). Obese participants (35.2±0.8 kg/m(2)) showed a greater increase in BF% compared with normal weight participants (21.7±0.2 kg/m(2), P<0.05, 95% CI: 0.53-2.37) and a trend vs overweight participants (26.8±0.3 kg/m(2), P=0.07, 95% CI: -0.18-1.65). Exercise (4.8±0.6 h per week) did not protect against holiday weight gain and was not a significant predictor for changes in BW or BF%. Data are reported as means±s.e.


Our participants gained an average of 0.78 kg, which indicates the majority of average annual weight gain (1 kg/y) reported by others may occur during the holiday season. Obese participants are most at risk as they showed the greatest increases in BF%. Initial BW, not exercise, significantly predicted BF% and BW gain.

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