Two Studies Shed Light on Weight Loss

Two brand new studies offer some interesting insights on how people lose weight as well as how to overcome the challenge of keeping it off successfully.

In the first study, (1) researchers at Bowling Green University wanted to explore the relationship of mood and exercise participation. It’s already been established that exercise enhances mood, but these folks wanted to see if there was a relationship between mood and the decision to exercise in the first place. “Exercise makes you feel good”, they noted, “but does feeling good make you exercise?”

They designed a study that would attempt to answer that question. Thirty-six obese participants in a behavioral weight loss program recorded their morning, evening and pre-and-post exercise mood, as well as the type, duration and intensity of exercise. The findings were clear: people who recorded better moods in the morning were more likely to exercise that day.

If there’s a take-home point here, it’s probably this: if you find yourself feeling good and positive in the morning, grab the opportunity and do some exercise right then. It’ll enhance your mood for the rest of the day and, while you’re at it, up the intensity. The researchers also found that those who exercised more frequently and at greater intensity had the greatest increases in mood ratings. The highest mood ratings came from those participants who exercised the longest and at the highest intensities.

The second study, (2) investigated how people successfully keep weight off once they lost it. (Anyone who’s ever lost weight knows that the biggest challenge often comes later, in the maintenance phase!) Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control examined data from a mailed survey of U.S. adults aged 18 or older and analyzed data on number of daily fruit and vegetable servings, minutes per week of physical activity, dining out behavior and confidence in one’s own ability to successfully follow healthy behavioral strategies.

The findings were interesting indeed but not terribly surprising. Adults who reported not eating at fast-food restaurants were more successful at keeping weight off than those who ate fast-food two or more times a week. Adults who consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a week and racked up 150 minutes a week of activity were more successful at keeping weight off than sedentary folks who ate less than 5 servings of vegetables and fruits.

One interesting variation on this theme was that exercising 420 minutes a week partly compensated for eating less than the recommended five servings, at least in the weight maintenance department. (We’re pretty sure the veggie and fruit eaters had other health benefits besides weight maintenance). Not surprisingly, people who exercised 420 minutes a week were more successful at keeping weight off than those who did nothing, even when they didn’t eat their veggies.

The take home point here is that the combined approach of staying out of fast-food restaurants, consuming five or more fruit and vegetable servings per day and attaining 150 minutes (or more) of some kind of physical activity was a common successful strategy among those keeping weight off. That’s a strategy that’s doable, health supporting and—obviously– eminently successful.

1. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2007 Dec; 29(6):706-22

2. Prev Chronic Dis. 2008 Jan; 5(1):A11. Epub 2007 Dec 15

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