The Best Form of Exercise for Preventing Weight Gain

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There are a lot of theories out there as to which form of exercise will help you lose weight, which can help you keep it off and which is best for preventing weight gain in the first place. Researchers have finally answered this question, with some interesting results.

The Best Is Also the Easiest

According to a recent scientific analysis, there is one very easy form of exercise that will do all three of the above (help you lose weight, help you keep it off and help prevent overweight and obesity): brisk walking.

Researchers who analyzed data from the annual English Health Surveys from 1999 to 2012 concluded that a simple, brisk, 30-minute walk five days per week was better for keeping off the pounds than similar time spent at the gym.

The researchers found that “individuals who walk at a brisk or fast pace are more likely to have a lower weight when compared to individuals doing other activities.”

The researchers also noted that “the association between physical activity and weight is stronger for females and individuals over the age of 50.”

How Much Walking Should You Do?

Brisk walking falls into the category of moderate-intensity exercise, and most national and international guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. That is a recommended minimum, and if you are trying to lose weight or keep off lost weight (known as weight maintenance), extending this to 45 minutes or even an hour will reap those added benefits.

Doing the daily minimum will greatly improve your cardiovascular health and fitness, too. In the Nurses’ Health Study, for instance, those who walked briskly or otherwise achieved moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes every day had a low risk of sudden cardiac death during 26 years of follow up.

Other Health Benefits

Brisk walking also counts as aerobic exercise, and the benefits of aerobic exercise extend far beyond the act of exercise alone. One study of nearly 100 obese older adults found that those who added exercise to their dietary weight-loss strategies had greater improvement in physical function. Other studies have found that aerobic exercise can improve lung function, obstructive sleep apnea, and may even help prevent or delay cognitive decline.

Daily walking will also improve your overall mobility. Other studies have found that walking speed in the elderly is a predictor of both quality of life and overall longevity. Staying active with brisk walking improves cardiovascular fitness, bone density, joint mobility, lung function, and even brain function—all of which translate into better quality of life over the long run as well as increased longevity.


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Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. United States Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed online at on June 12, 2014.

Washburn RA, Szabo AN, Lambourne K, et al. Does the method of weight loss effect long-term changes in weight, body composition or chronic disease risk factors in overweight or obese adults? A systematic review. PLoS One 2014;9:e109849.

Johns DJ, Hartmann-Boyce J, Jebb SA, et al. Diet or exercise intervention vs combined behavioral weight management programs: a systematic review and meta-analysis of direct comparisons. J Acad Nutr Diet 2014;114:1557-1568.

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