Objective: The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was established in 1993 to examine the characteristics of those who are successful at weight loss: individuals maintaining a 13.6-kg weight loss for >1 year. The size of the registry has increased substantially since the early descriptions of this group a decade ago. The purpose of this study was to describe in detail the weekly physical activity habits of NWCR members, to examine the relationship between amount of activity and demographic characteristics, and to determine if changes in activity parameters have occurred over time.
Methods and procedures: Participants were 887 men and 2,796 women who enrolled in the NWCR between 1993 and 2004. Physical activity was evaluated at registry entry using the Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire.
Results: NWCR entrants report an average of 2,621 +/- 2,252 kcal/week in physical activity. There is considerable variability in the amount of activity reported: 25.3% report <1,000 kcal/week and 34.9% report >3,000 kcal/week. Activity level on registry entry is related to the magnitude but not the duration of weight loss. The amount of activity reported by men has decreased over time while no significant change was observed in women. Changes in the types of activities most frequently reported were also observed.
Discussion: Overall, NWCR participants are an extremely physically active group. However, the amount of activity reported is highly variable, making it difficult to develop a single recommendation for the optimum amount of physical activity for weight loss maintenance. A better understanding of individual-specific determinants of how much activity is required for weight loss maintenance ought to be a high research priority.