Weighing the Options

By John F. Lauerman / March / April 2000
October 29th, 2007
What stands between you and losing a few extra pounds? Maybe you can’t find time to exercise five days a week, as weight-loss specialists recommend, or can’t get the moral and professional support you need.

Well, there may be a way around those obstacles, according to researchers in Brown’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center. John Jakicic, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior, and Rena Wing, professor of psychiatry and human behavior, reported in a December issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association that multiple short bouts of exercise combine to provide as much benefit as one long session.

Working with researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Wing and Jakicic studied 148 sedentary, overweight women, aged 25 to 45, who went through an eighteen-month program of exercising five times a week. The women gradually increased their workout time from twenty to forty minutes daily. Surprisingly, women who broke their exercise regimen into ten-minute sessions lost weight just as quickly as those who did all their daily exercise at one stretch.

Cybercoaches can help with weight loss, too. An ongoing study by Deborah Tate, a research associate in the department of psychiatry and human behavior, has shown that people who get feedback on their diet and exercise program lost an average of nine pounds in twelve weeks. A similar group of people who were only given on-line information without the coaching shed just three pounds in the same period.

“We took all the elements that you would find in a clinic program, like weigh-in and support,” says Tate, “and delivered it on-line so that people didn’t have to come back to the clinic every week.”

Both studies seem to underscore the importance of removing such obstacles as isolation and a busy schedule from weight-loss programs. If exercising is easier, Jakicic suggests, the success people have with it could encourage them to modify their diets, too, resulting in better health.

“From what we’ve seen, weight loss is kind of an all-or-nothing phenomenon,” says Jakicic. “It may be that if you can do the exercise, you can do the other things you need to lose weight, like cut calories. If we can remove the obstacles to exercise, we may be able to get the other important stuff going, too.”

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March / April 2000