Handbook of Eating Disorders: Physiology, Psychology, and Treatment of Obesity, Anorexia, and Bulimia

By Kelly D. Brownell; John P. Foreyt | Go to book overview

7
Obesity: The Role
of Physical Activity

Judith S. Stern

Patricia Lowney

If there were a commandment for treating obesity it would be: "Thou shalt exercise." People who exercise regularly weigh less (see figure 7.1), have a lower percentage of body fat, and may eat more than sedentary individuals.8,38 Yet, when surveying the scientific literature on the treatment of obesity, one cannot help but come away impressed with the dramatic effects of caloric restriction and underwhelmed by the minor contribution of exercise to most weight-loss programs. While this may be a democratic assessment of the literature, we think it is a shortsighted one. It ignores the possible contributions of exercise to the prevention of obesity (especially for those at high risk) and to the maintenance of a reduced weight. Exercise's contribution to weight loss and maintenance must be viewed over many months—even years. When evaluating the effectiveness of exercise in obesity treatment programs, there is the additional problem of adherence—50 percent of individuals who begin an exercise program drop out within the first six months.16

This chapter presents a brief overview of the contribution of physical activity to energy balance, and the role of exercise in obesity treatment programs and in the maintenance of a reduced body weight. Finally, suggestions are offered to improve adherence to exercise programs.

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