Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:32 pm

When it comes to maintaining weight loss, what works better – diet or exercise?

A new study from the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Centre (AHWC) found that exercise trumps dieting for maintaining weight loss.

The study showed that successful weight-loss maintainers – individuals who maintain a reduced body weight of 13,6 kilograms or more for over a year – rely on exercise rather than dieting to avoid weight regain.

The study, published in the March issue of Obesity, was selected as the ‘Editor’s Choice’ article.

“This study addresses the difficult question of why so many people struggle to keep weight off over a long period. By providing evidence that a group of successful weight-loss maintainers engages in high levels of physical activity to prevent weight regain – rather than chronically restricting their energy intake – is a step forward to clarifying the relationship between exercise and weight-loss maintenance,” says Danielle Ostendorf, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the AHWC.

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Stepping it up to stay slim

The study compared three groups of people – weight-loss maintainers, people with normal body weight, and overweight/obese individuals.

Interestingly, the study found that, although the total calories burned (and consumed) each day by weight-loss maintainers was significantly higher (300 kcal/day) than individuals with normal body weight, it was not significantly different from that in the overweight/obese individuals.

However, the total calories burned and the amount burned in physical activity by weight-loss maintainers was significantly higher (180 kcal/day) compared with that in both individuals of normal body weight and individuals with overweight/obesity.

The weight-loss maintainer group demonstrated significantly higher levels of steps per day (12 000 steps per day) compared to participants of normal body weight (9 000 steps per day) and participants with overweight/obesity (6 500 steps per day).

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The bottom line for the biggest losers

“Our findings suggest that this group of successful weight-loss maintainers are consuming a similar number of calories per day as individuals with overweight and obesity but appear to avoid weight regain by compensating for this with high levels of physical activity,” says Victoria A. Catenacci, MD, a weight management physician and researcher at University of Colorado Anschutz Health Medical Campus.

The findings are consistent with results from the longitudinal study of The Biggest Loser contestants, where physical activity energy expenditure was strongly correlated with weight loss and weight gain after six years.

Source: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus via

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