A new study revealed physical activity does more to maintain substantial weight loss than diet.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC).
The findings reveal that successful weight-loss maintainers rely on physical activity to remain in energy balance (rather than chronic restriction of dietary intake) to avoid weight regain.
In the study, successful weight-loss maintainers are people who maintain a reduced body weight of 30 pounds or more for over a year.
The researchers found that the total calories burned (and consumed) each day by weight-loss maintainers was much higher (300 kcal/day) than people with normal body weight but was not strongly different from that in the people with overweight/obesity.
The amount burned in physical activity by weight-loss maintainers was strongly higher (180 kcal/day) compared with that in both individuals of normal body weight and individuals with overweight/obesity.
Despite the higher energy cost of moving a larger body mass incurred by individuals with overweight/obesity, weight-loss maintainers were burning more energy in physical activity, suggesting they were moving more.
This is supported by the fact that the weight-loss maintainer group also demonstrated much more higher levels of steps per day (12,000 steps per day) compared to people at a normal body weight (9,000 steps per day) and people with overweight/obesity (6,500 steps per day).
These findings suggest that successful weight-loss maintainers are consuming a similar number of calories per day as individuals with overweight and obesity but they could avoid weight regain by doing more physical activity.
This study is one of the few to measure total daily energy expenditure in weight-reduced people using the gold standard doubly labeled water method.
The researchers also measured each individual’s resting metabolic rate in order to understand how much of the total daily energy expenditure is from energy expended at rest versus energy expended during physical activity.
Prior studies used self-reported measures or activity monitors to measure physical activity, which are techniques that cannot provide the same accuracy.
The findings are consistent with results from the longitudinal study of “The Biggest Loser” contestants, where physical activity energy expenditure was strongly correlated with weight loss and weight gain after six years.
The team suggests that the study addresses the difficult question of why so many people struggle to keep weight off over a long period.
It shows that high levels of physical activity is better for preventing weight regain than chronically restricting their energy intake.
One author is Danielle Ostendorf, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the CU Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.
The study is published in the journal Obesity.
Source: CU Anschutz Medical Campus.