How much physical activity is needed to minimize weight gain in previously obese women?

Dale A. Schoeller*, Kathyjo Shay, Robert F. Kushner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


Exercise is frequently identified as a predictor of weight maintenance after elective weight loss in retrospective studies of treatments for obesity. We conducted a prospective study to test whether physical activity measured soon after weight loss predicted weight maintenance and to determine how much physical activity was required to optimize maintenance. Thirty-two women [mean (± SD) age, 38 ± 7 y; body mass index (in kg/m2), 24 ± 3] were recruited through local advertising within 3 mo of reaching their target for weight loss (23 ± 9 kg). Total energy expenditure (TEE) was measured by the doubly labeled water method. Postabsorptive resting metabolic rate (RMR) and post-prandial RMR [expressed as thermic effect of a meal (TEM)] were measured by respiratory gas exchange. Women in the physically active group (ratio of TEE to RMR = 1.89 ± 0.08) gained 2.5 ± 3.1 kg during the 12 mo after reaching their target for weight loss, moderately active women (TEE:RMR = 1.64 ± 0.05) gained 9.9 ± 10.5 kg, and sedentary women (TEE:RMR = 1.44 ± 0.08) gained 7.0 ± 5.9 kg (P < 0.01). Retrospective analyses of weight regain as a function of energy expended in physical activity indicated a threshold for weight maintenance of 47 kJ · kg body wt-1 · d-1. This corresponds to an average of 80 min/d of moderate activity or 35 min/d of vigorous activity added to a sedentary lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)551-556
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1997


  • Body composition
  • Doubly labeled water
  • Energy metabolism
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Physical activity
  • Postobese women
  • Stable isotopes
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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