When the growing problem of overweight and obesity is mentioned, the issues that immediately spring to mind for most people will be food intake and overeating. Until the last 5 years, lack of physical activity has received at best secondary attention. Attributions to gluttony rather than sloth appears to be characteristic of not only the general public, but also health professionals and policy makers. General practitioners and practice nurses are much more likely to refer overweight and obese patients to dietitians rather than exercise specialists. Even today, almost all commercially-driven weight loss programmes focus primarily on dieting, with only cursory interest in exercise as a means of weight control.
The limited credence given to inactivity as a cause of obesity and overweight is not entirely clear. Research evidence supporting the role of exercise in health improvement, weight loss and the prevention of weight gain has only emerged in the past 10 years or so and is still gathering pace. In the meantime, the general public have taken the view that exercise does little for weight loss or that its effects are too slow in comparison to dieting to be of benefit. Many health professionals perhaps