Researchers in our group have found that current physical activity guidelines for health are insufficient to mitigate long-term weight gain. The study was published in British Journal of Sports Medicine, and are based on data from The HUNT study i Norway.
The current guidelines for physical activity for health benefits say that all adults should do moderate-intensity activity a minimum of 150 minutes, or vigorous-intensity activity for 60 minutes or more, each week. But do this level of physical activity prevent long-term weight gain?
This was assessed using data from the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT) in Norway. In HUNT, weight and physical activity were measured in 1984-1986, 1995-1997 and in 2006-2008. We included over 19 000 participants and classified these based on the guidelines for physical activity into these categories: inactive, below the recommended level, at the recommended level, or above the recommended level. We found that men who maintained a physical activity level above the recommendations for the whole time period of 22 years increased 5.6 kg in weight, while inactive men increased 9.1 kg. Women who were more active than the recommended level increased 3.8 kg while women who were inactive increased 9.5 kg.
As many subjects tend to change their level of physical activity during the years, we also did an analysis where we updated the level of activity over time. In this analysis we found that being more active than the recommendations was associated with about 2 kg less weight gain over any 11-year period, compared to being inactive. Also, we saw that being more active than the recommendations was associated with decreased risk of significant weight gain, defined as 2.3 kg or more.
In conclusion, physical activity above the current recommendations for health benefits was associated with significantly lower risk of weight gain. However, there exists a lot of studies showing huge health benefits of adhering to the current recommendations. Also, the largest increase in health is seen between those who are inactive and those who do a little bit of physical activity.
Trine Tegdan Moholdt, Post Doc at CERG