Researchers who studied young adults from the United States and four other countries found that neither physical activity nor sedentary time were associated with weight gain.

An international study led by Loyola University Chicago is providing compelling new evidence that exercise may not be the key to controlling weight.

“Our study results indicate that physical activity may not protect you from gaining weight,” said lead author Lara R. Dugas, PhD, MPH. Dugas is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The study is published in the journal PeerJ.


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Physical activity has many proven health benefits, ranging from reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer to improving mental health and mood. People who are physically active tend to be healthier and live longer. But while physical activity burns calories, it also increases appetite, and people may compensate by eating more or by being less active the rest of the day.
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Some experts have suggested that a decline in physical activity, especially in the workplace, has been a key contributor to the obesity epidemic. But research such as the new Loyola study, in which physical activity is objectively measured and participants are followed over time, has not found a meaningful relationship between weight gain and physical activity.

Surprisingly, total weight gain in every country was greater among participants who met the physical activity guidelines. For example, American men who met the guidelines gained a half pound per year, while American men who did not meet the guideline lost 0.6 pounds.

Researchers did not find any significant relationships between sedentary time at the initial visit and subsequent weight gain or weight loss. The only factors that were significantly associated with weight gain were weight at the initial visit, age and gender.

Read the full press release here.