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More evidence that boosting Americans’ physical activity alone won't solve the obesity epidemic

runner_2_072213Although a significant portion of counties in the United States reported that Americans' physical activity increased between 2001 and 2009, the percentage of obese adults continued to rise nationwide during the same period, according to research published this month in Population Health Metrics.

In an American Medical News story posted today, lead study author Ali Mokdad, PhD, a professor of global health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, comments on how the study underscores the importance of physicians helping patients address both diet and exercise:

Physicians should explain to patients that losing weight is “about a balance between the [calories] the patient is consuming and expending through physical activity,” he said. Unless exercise and diet are both addressed, “we’re not going to see the benefits of physical activity on obesity.”

Mokdad said more aggressive strategies to prevent and control the epidemic are needed. Those strategies should include local policies to develop safe places for people to exercise, including parks and trails. He urged communities to continue taking steps to make nutritious food, such as fruits and vegetables, more accessible and to increase physical activity for students in schools.

A key component of such a strategy is that physicians discuss exercise and nutrition with patients and counsel them on practical ways to shed pounds or maintain a healthy weight, Mokdad said.

“People respect physicians and listen to them and take their advice seriously,” he said. “They have a big role.”

On a related note, a Stanford study published earlier this year found that to achieve weight-loss goals, individuals should make changes to their exercise routine and diet simultaneously. Participants who started exercise and healthy-eating programs at the same time were more successful than others in meeting national guidelines for exercise (150 minutes per week) and nutrition, which includes eating five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables daily and keeping calories from saturated fats at 10 percent or less of their total intake.

Previously: To meet weight loss goals, start exercise and healthy eating programs at the same time, Encouraging weight loss through group competitions for financial prizes, The trouble with the current calorie-counting system and Study shows weight counseling decreases despite increase in obesity rates
Photo by TheCoolQuest

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