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In the journals: Exercise limits weight gain in normal-weight but not heavier women

Updated: June 01, 2010

As most of us know, about two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, and excess weight is a major health problem. Weight gain occurs when energy intake (calories consumed) exceeds energy output (calories burned). Many studies have shown that physical activity can promote weight loss among people who are overweight or obese, but far fewer have investigated whether it can prevent unhealthy weight gain in the first place. That's the focus of a study by Harvard Medical School researchers published in the March 24/31, 2010, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The research team was led by Prof. I-Min Lee of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, who is on the advisory board of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

The researchers analyzed data provided by 34,079 healthy women, average age 54, who were participating in the long-term Women's Health Study. Between 1992 and 2007, the women reported their body weight and physical activities every three years. They also provided information on matters that could affect the link between physical activity and weight change, such as smoking, postmenopausal hormone use, alcohol intake, and diet.

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