Objective: Since the prevalence of adult obesity is increasing in the United States, we examined the effect of changing common habits (exercise, TV viewing, smoking and eating habits) on four year change in body weight.
Design: A prospective cohort study of US male health professionals with follow-up from 1988-1992. Participants were 19478 men aged 40-75 in 1986, who were free of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Methods: Multiple regression was used to determine the association between four year change in body weight (from 1988-1992) and common habits, after adjusting for baseline age, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.
Results: For middle aged men, vigorous activity was associated with weight reduction and TV/VCR viewing and eating between meals with weight gain. Quitting smoking and a history of voluntary weight loss prior to the study period were consistently related to weight increase. Recently being on a diet was more strongly associated with weight loss among older men. Over the four year follow-up period, middle-aged men who increased their exercise, decreased TV viewing and stopped eating between meals, lost an average weight of -1.4 kg (95% confidence interval (CI) -1.6 - -1.1 kg), compared to a weight gain of 1.4 kg among the overall population. The prevalence of obesity among middle-aged men was lowest among those who maintained a relatively high level of vigorous physical activity, compared to those who were relatively sedentary.
Conclusion: These data suggest that improvement in the mix of health habits, particularly increasing vigorous activity, as well as decreasing TV use and changing eating habits, results in weight maintenance or a modest weight loss over four years.