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Weight-Loss Maintainers Sit Less than Weight-Stable People with Obesity

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People who are successful at weight-loss maintenance spend less time sitting during the week and weekends compared to weight-stable individuals with obesity, according to a paper published online in Obesity, The Obesity Society’s flagship journal. This is the first study to examine time spent in various sitting activities among weight-loss maintainers.

Prior findings from 2006 in the National Weight Control Registry indicated that weight-loss maintainers watched significantly less television than controls, but other sitting activities were not examined. In the current study, weight-loss maintainers did not significantly differ from controls in reported weekly sitting time spent watching television but did differ in time spent in non-work-related time using a computer or video game.

Differences between the current study and National Weight Control Registry findings could reflect changes over the past 15 years in available electronic devices, including the rise in availability of computers and video games. Weight-loss maintainers and controls also did not appreciably differ in time spent sitting while reading or studying, travelling, or talking, texting, and socialising. These could be considered more mentally active forms of sedentary behaviour.

Suzanne Phelan, Department of Kinesiology and Public Health and The Center for Health Research, California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo, said: ‘The findings hopefully will prompt future weight maintenance intervention research testing the effects of, and optimal approaches for, reducing sedentary behaviour, including non-work-related computer and video game usage. Future research should include objective measures of sedentary behaviour and activity.’ Professor Phelan is the corresponding author of this study.

Participants in the study included 4,305 weight-loss maintainers from WW (formerly Weight Watchers), who had maintained >9.1 kg of weight loss (24.7 kg on average) for 3.3 years and had an average current BMI of 27.6 kg/m2. The group of weight-stable individuals with obesity had an average BMI of 38.9 kg/m2. To gather data, the Multicontext Sitting Time and Paffenbarger physical activity questionnaires were administered.

Results revealed that weight-loss maintainers versus weight-stable individuals with obesity spent three hours less per day sitting during the week (10.9 versus 13.9) and weekends (9.7 versus 12.6). Weight-loss maintainers compared with controls also spent one hour less per day in non-work-related sitting using a computer or playing a video game during the week (1.4 versus 2.3) and weekends (1.5 versus 2.5). There were no meaningful differences between weight-loss maintainers and weight-stable individuals with obesity in the number of television sets and sedentary-promoting devices in the home (15.8 versus 14.8). Weight-loss maintainers expended significantly more calories per week in physical activity (1,835 versus 785).

John M. Jakicic, PhD, distinguished professor and director of the Healthy Lifestyle Institute and the Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, said: ‘These findings are important for understanding behaviours that may enhance weight loss maintenance, and one of those may be to reduce sitting time and other modes of sedentary behaviour. However, this study also showed that physical activity was associated with improved weight-loss maintenance. Thus, this study does not imply that simply standing more rather than sitting will contribute to weight-loss maintenance, but may suggest that less sitting which results in more movement is what is key to weight loss maintenance. Hence, sit less and move more.’ Professor Jakicic was not associated with the research.

Other authors of the study include James Roake, Noemi Alarcon, and Sarah Keadle of the Department of Kinesiology and Public Health and The Center for Health Research, California Polytechnic State University, in San Luis Obispo; Chad Rethorst of Texas A&M Agrilife in Dallas, Texas; and Gary Foster of WW International, Inc. of New York and the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

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