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Lack of Exercise not Calories Responsible for Weight Gain

Update Date: Jul 08, 2014 09:23 AM EDT

The combination of exercise and nutrition is vital for overall health. However, according to a new study, one of these two factors can be blamed more so than the other for increasing waistlines. In a new study, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine discovered that leading a sedentary lifestyle has a greater effect on the American obesity epidemic than over-eating, particularly for women under 40-years-old.

"Our findings do not support the popular notion that the increase of obesity in the United States can be attributed primarily to sustained increase over time in the average daily caloric intake of Americans," study author Dr. Uri Ladabaum, an associate professor of medicine at the University wrote, reported by CBS News.

For this study, the researchers analyzed 20 years of data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The team calculated that from 1994 to 2010, the rate of adult women who reported being inactive increased from 19.1 percent to 51.7 percent. For adult men, the rate increased from 11.4 percent to 43.5 percent. Throughout the same time period, average body mass index (BMI), which is a measurement of obesity, increased by 0.37 percent. BMI increases were the most prominent in women between the ages of 18 and 39.

"These changes have occurred in the context of substantial increases in the proportion of adults reporting no leisure-time physical activity, but in the absence of any significant population-level changes in average daily caloric intake," Dr. Ladabaum stated according to Medical Xpress. "At the population level, we found a significant association between the level of leisure-time physical activity, but not daily caloric intake, and the increases in both BMI and waist circumference."

The researchers also examined the changes in abdominal obesity, which is measured via waist circumference. A man with a circumference of over 102 cm and a woman with a circumference of over 88 cm are considered abdominally obese and have a greater risk of death. Throughout the two decades, the researchers calculated that abdominal obesity increased by 0.27 percent per year for men and 0.37 percent per year for women.

"From encouraging communities to provide safe places for physical activity to ensuring ample supply of healthy food to empowering Americans to take control of their health, we must launch a concerted comprehensive effort to control obesity," Pamela Powers Hannley, MPH, managing editor at the American Journal of Medicine, wrote in an accompanying article to the study.

The study, "Obesity, Abdominal Obesity, Physical Activity, and Caloric Intake in US Adults: 1988 to 2010," was published in the American Journal of Medicine.

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