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Weight Loss: New Findings in Gender Differences Might Surprise You

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A recent study from Northwestern University was released on December 15 finding people will gain significantly less weight by middle age, especially women, if they engage in moderate to vigorous activity nearly every day of the week.

The information stems from looking at the results of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, a multi-center, longitudinal and population-based observational study designed to describe the development of risk factors for coronary heart disease in young black and white adults. The study participants consisted of 1,800 women and nearly 1,700 men.

The finding noted, highly active women gain less than highly active men over 20 years. Women seemed to benefit from high activity over 20 years, gaining an average of 13 pounds less than those with low activity; while men with high activity gained about 6 pounds less than their low-activity peers.

High activity included recreational exercise such as basketball, running, brisk walking or an exercise class or daily activities such as housework or construction work. This means you can get exercise in just about any daily activity if you try.

For some, the study's definition of high-activity levels, Hankinson noted, was 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week.

"Everyone benefits from high activity, but I was surprised by the gender differences," said lead author Arlene Hankinson, M.D., an instructor in preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It wasn't that activity didn't have an effect in men, but the effect was greater in women. Now women should be especially motivated."

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Activity was self-reported by individuals involved in the study which leads me to believe there might be "over" reporting. Hankins agrees that some difference in female to male results may be due to, "Women are less likely than men to overestimate their activity. Men may not be getting as much activity as they report."

From my experiences, clients tend to believe they are doing more than they thought they did as well as eat less than actually consumed. This is good news to note that the findings may reflect a slightly higher exercise time which translates into how easy it can be to stay fit -- a common misconception.

Dr. Arlene Hankinson reminds us, "Don't look at activity as punishment as you suffer through it, but incorporate it more into your every day life."

If you are looking for more ways to get daily activity, check out the Sit-ilates, Walk-ilates, Shop-ilates programs in my new book, "Naked Fitness." It drives home the point of lifestyle movement matters.

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