Keeping the weight off can be tough for young adults. But a new study shows that not only is it doable, it can be done by making either small or large changes in exercise and diet.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina had one test group make large changes at the start of the three-year study, reducing their calories by 500 to 1,000 a day over the first eight weeks. They also gradually increased their physical activity to a little over four hours a week. The other group started by reducing its calories by only 100 a day and they were asked to take 2,000 steps a day until the end of the study. Researchers also met with both groups ten times over the first four months to help them develop dieting skills. And the participants were weighed everyday.
Either way works
The results, according principal investigator Deborah Tate, Ph.D. a professor of health behavior and nutrition at UNC, were remarkable. “During this three year period, adults in this age group (18-35), on average, would have been three to six pounds heavier” she says “but they were two to five pounds lighter.”
The study reports that both diet approaches cut the obesity risk by half. Only 7 percent of the small changes group and 8 percent of the large changes group became obese, as opposed to 16 percent in a control group. “There was always this prevailing belief that if you make small changes to your diet – walk further, take the stairs, cut out a snack – you can prevent weight gain, but nobody had put it to the test,” according to Dr. Tate. But she says the findings not only support this belief, they also show that a large change approach, significantly reducing calories for a short time, can also help prevent typical weight gains.
On average, people gain about 30 pounds during their young adult years. The slow, but pervasive weight gain during these years lays the foundation for obesity, which contributes to diseases such heart disease and diabetes.