Recreational physical activity and ten-year weight change in a US national cohort

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1993 May;17(5):279-86.


Clinical research has established that increases in physical activity cause weight loss among the obese, but less is known about the influence of physical activity on longer-term weight change in the general population. Data from the NHANES-I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (1971-1975 to 1982-1984) were used to examine the relationship between self-reported recreational physical activity level (low, medium, high) and measured weight change after ten years among 3515 men and 5810 women aged 25-74 years. Cross-sectional analyses at both the baseline and follow-up surveys revealed that recreational physical activity was inversely related to body weight. Low recreational physical activity reported at the follow-up survey was strongly related to major weight gain (> 13 kg) that had occurred during the preceding ten years. The estimated relative risk of major weight gain for those in the low activity level at the follow-up survey compared to those in the high activity level was 3.1 (95% Cl = 1.6-6.0) in men and 3.8 (2.3-6.5) in women. In addition, the relative risk for persons whose activity level was low at both the baseline and follow-up surveys was 2.3 (0.9-5.8) in men and 7.1 (2.2-23.3) in women. However, no relationship was found between baseline physical activity level and subsequent weight gain among either men or women. The lack of a relationship may be due to mis-specification of physical activity because of changes in activity over time. These findings suggest that low physical activity may be both a cause and a consequence of weight gain.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Gain