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Preventing weight gain as you get older

December 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Gaining weight as you enter middle age is a fact of life. But scientists say they've figured out what you need to do to keep as much of it off as possible, and it's even better news if you're a woman.Being highly physically active has always been a regular part of life for Judy Oden and Lewis Schneider. Whether it's Pilates, training or running, these two constantly keep moving and have successfully held the line on excess pounds as they've aged.

"I've always done it. I enjoy it and it just keeps me feeling youthful," said Oden.

"I always have a goal, so if there's a goal that means I have to train," said Schneider.

In a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers followed a group of young adults for 20 years. Their physical activity levels were tracked into middle age.

"Nothing that we've seen prevents age-related weight gain entirely but maintaining higher levels of physical activity over time were associated with gaining less weight as you transition from young adulthood into middle age," said Dr. Arlene Hankinson, M.D., an instructor in preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

It especially made a difference in women, but it's not easy to maintain those levels over the long haul. Only 11 to 13 percent of those studied were able to do it.

"High activity levels doesn't have to be some unattainable goal. It doesn't have to be running a marathon or doing any extraordinary thing, it needs to be the accumulation of activity that is a habit," said Dr. Hankinson.

It's a lifelong habit that can mean a longer, healthier life.

Researchers say if you maintain a high activity level over time you don't have to keep increasing that level to continue seeing results.


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