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Women need an hour of exercise daily to maintain weight in midlife

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If you struggle with your weight, the fight just got a little tougher. The latest advice from researchers regarding women and their weight is that we need to exercise an hour a day, 7 days a week, to maintain our weight without dieting and to avoid the weight gain that comes with aging.

An hour. As in, 60 minutes.

Have you seen a woman lately with an extra hour in her day?

Me either.

Nonetheless, that’s the recommendation released online Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"We wanted to see in regular folks -- people not on any particular diet -- what level of physical activity do you need to prevent weight gain over time," said the lead author of the study, Dr. I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard University. "It's a large amount of activity. If you're not willing to do a high amount of activity, you need to curtail your calories a lot," Lee told the Los Angeles Times. More from the story:

“The study was based on surveys of more than 34,000 U.S. women who were, on average, age 54 at the start of it. They reported their physical activity and weight, as well as health factors such as smoking and menopausal status, over 13 years. On average, the women gained 5.7 pounds during the study.

“Only those women who were normal weight at the start of the study and engaged in moderate-intensity activity an average of 60 minutes per day, seven days a week, maintained a normal body weight, defined as a body mass index of less than 25. That amount of exercise is three times higher than the amount recommended by the federal government -- 150 minutes per week -- to lower the risk of chronic ailments such as heart disease.

"You can still do much for your health with a lower level of exercise," Lee said. "But if you want to exercise for weight control, it's 60 minutes a day."
Finding that 60 minutes may well be harder than doing the exercise itself for today’s women, who often are balancing jobs, marriages, children and even their aging parents.

"Time is a four-letter word," Eva Lazarra, 48, a pharmacist at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, told Reuters News Service. Lazarra was taking a break from work to lift weights at the facility's fitness center.

"In a realistic world of a working mom with a family, it can be difficult. I've done my best," said Lazarra. "I have done marathons. I have done triathlons. Unfortunately, we have to start looking at prevention, and that being part of our daily life."

Dr. Mary Tillema, 42, a neonatologist at the medical center, told Reuters that an hour a day of moderate exercise will be tough. "I think that's a lot to ask of the typical person. If I don't watch what I eat, I gain, even though I try to consistently exercise."

Tillema works out three to four days a week, with a routine that includes 35 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and about a half hour of weight training.

"I'd like to think that I can get away with less,” Tillema said, “but I can't because I see the weight start to creep up and I don't feel as good. But I certainly don't get an hour a day," she said.

USA Today points out that an hour of exercise a day doesn’t have to be in the gym, or even in an organized program. Just brisk walking will do the job, as long as you put in the time. Lee said that walking was the most common activity of the women in the study. If you do more vigorous activity, such as running, 30 minutes is equal to 60 minutes of walking. And that 60 minutes can be accumulated throughout the day in “short bursts of at least 10 minutes each.”

Is this possible for you? Is there a place in your busy life to carve out 60 minutes a day of physical activity? Or does this discourage you and make you feel you’ll never get control of your weight?

The Los Angeles Times story:

The Reuters story:

The USA Today story:

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

A lot of people forget there are things that can be done throughout their day to exercise.

Take the stairs
Walking meetings
Lunch time walks


Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc.

March 26, 2010 - 9:43am

I think this is a ridiculous recommendation. Clearly every woman is different and the amount of exercise required to maintain a certain weight is obviously different as well. I personally think people rely too much on studies and bogus research and generalize it. This is common sense. Break it down...everything in moderation. Eat healthy, work out. Period. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. What that means is different to every person. The intensity of a workout (not the time) is the base of this argument- a hard 20 minute run vs a 60 min walk or yoga class has different affects on your body. Who says you have to workout 60 full minutes when you can receive greater benefits in less time with a more intense shorter workout?

Does the study mention what these participants were eating or was it simply based on exercise alone? There are too many factors that effect gaining, losing and maintaining weight. This study just puts stress on woman and in my opinion offers no real value.

March 25, 2010 - 1:24pm
(reply to Shana O'Connor)

Shana, What you stated in your comment, for the better part, could be accomplised by the average person.
I still agree with the part of Diane's article that stated working out for 10 minutes at time can be done. As
you stated, everyone is different. People with certain health problems, such as myself, do have limitations
which they must take into consideration. It may not be vigorous or intense, but I feel that it has value.
After all something is better than nothing. I remain happy with my 10 minutes = six time a day. To verify
that it does have merit, I contacted my 24 hour medical advisory board with my insurance, and stated
that it does have merit. They were happy that I would consider doing it. They asked me to let them know
if works for me. I have placed on a 1800 calorie-"Diabetic Diet", with absolutely no salt. I cook all my food
from scratch to ensure that as little salt as possible is include. If anyone needs some receipes in order to
eat without salt send me a message and I would be glad to include one at a time in a message. Sincerely,

March 26, 2010 - 1:17pm

Diane, I am so glad that you , towards the end of your article said that you can exercise ten minutes at a
time through out the day. For me this will work out perfectlly!!!! I am going to try my best to incorperate
this into my daily routine. I need to loose some weight before my lung surgery. With my limited
ability due to heart and lung problems, exercise has always been problematic. Sincerely, Lioness111

March 25, 2010 - 7:21am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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