Small boosts to physical activity can prevent, reverse obesity
Consistently increasing physical activity level — even by small amounts — helped Taiwanese adults to avoid or reverse obesity, according to findings published in Obesity.
“Our study indicates that more benefits may be attained with a greater increase in physical activity,” David Martinez-Gomez, PhD, a researcher in the department of preventive medicine and public health at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid/IdiPaz and CIBER of Epidemiology and Public Health in Madrid, and colleagues wrote. “In addition, our results also support that maintaining high physical activity levels would be important for obesity prevention.”
Martinez-Gomez and colleagues evaluated the physical activity levels of 113,950 adults from the Taiwan MJ Cohort (mean age, 37.8 years; 49% women; 21.2% with obesity) at a baseline examination and at another examination a mean of 1.9 years later. Obesity was categorized as either overall or abdominal. Overall obesity was confirmed by a BMI of at least 25 kg/m2 while abdominal obesity was in present in men with a waist circumference of at least 90 cm and women with a waist circumference of at least 80 cm.
The researchers used the MJ PA Questionnaire to determine physical activity levels. The participants self-reported intensity, which researchers converted to metabolic equivalents (METs: light = 2.5 METs, moderate = 4.5 METs, medium-vigorous = 6.5 METs, high-vigorous = 8.5 METs), and frequency as the number of hours spent engaging in physical activity each week. The researchers also determined BMI and waist circumference at each examination and during 5.6 years of mean follow-up in total.
BMI-based obesity risk was reduced by 5% when participants increased physical activity by between 0.01 MET and 3.74 MET hours per week (HR = 0.95; 95% CI, 0.9-1) and by 14% for those who increased physical activity by at least 3.75 MET hours per week (HR = 0.86; 95% CI, 0.8-0.91). Waist circumference-based obesity risk was reduced by 6% when participants increased physical activity by between 0.01 MET and 3.74 MET hours per week (HR = 0.94; 95% CI, 0.89-0.99) and by 16% when they increased physical activity by at least 3.75 MET hours per week (HR = 0.84; 95% CI, 0.79-0.89).
“Doing at least one-half of the recommended amount of physical activity — ie, 3.75 MET hours per week — may prevent the onset of overall obesity,” the researchers wrote. “The present study extends knowledge by confirming that increasing such amounts of physical activity may have certain benefits in preventing obesity development.”
The probability of BMI-based obesity remission was elevated by 16% when participants increased physical activity by at least 3.75 MET hours per week (HR = 1.16; 95% CI, 1.05-1.28). The probability of waist circumference-based obesity remission was elevated by 22% when participants increased physical activity by at least 3.75 MET hours per week (HR = 1.22; 95% CI, 1.1-1.36).
The researchers noted that there was “a nonlinear dose response association between changes in physical activity and subsequent incidence and remission of overall and abdominal obesity” and that “similar associations were found when examining severe obesity.”
“Even a relatively small increase in physical activity was associated with a lower incidence and higher remission of overall and abdominal obesity,” the researchers wrote. “These results suggest that adopting a more active lifestyle could play a key role in prevention and management of obesity in the population with potentially profound public health implications.” – by Phil Neuffer
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.