Br J Sports Med 34:86-93 doi:10.1136/bjsm.34.2.86
  • Review

Physical activity mediates a healthier body weight in the presence of obesity

  1. Linda S Pescatello1,2,
  2. Jaci L VanHeest1
  1. 1University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA
  2. 2New Britain General Hospital, New Britain, CT, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr L S Pescatello, University of Connecticut, School of Allied Health Professions, 359 Mansfield Road, U-2101, Storrs, CT 06269-2101, USA
  • Accepted 5 January 2000

Take home message

A behaviourally based lifestyle physical activity intervention in combination with dietary intervention appears as effective as a structured exercise regimen in promoting physical activity in previously sedentary overweight and obese persons, concomitantly improving their cardiometabolic health profile through a healthier body weight. These findings are encouraging because this approach removes many of the commonly reported barriers to sustained participation in structured exercise training programmes in a group of adults in need of its cardiometabolic health benefits.


In the last decade, the numbers of overweight (body mass index (BMI) >25 kg/m2) and obese (BMI >30 kg/m2) people have substantially increased in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Western Samoa.1 The prevalence of obesity in the United States has grown from 12.0% in 1991 to 17.9% in 1998.2 Recent reports indicate that overweight and obese adults now comprise the majority of the American population with 54.9% persons reporting a BMI >25 kg/m2. These alarming trends have led to the declaration of a global obesity epidemic.3,4

Overweight and obesity have become so common that they are replacing the more traditional health problems of undernutrition and infectious diseases as significant causes of poor health world wide.3 Excess weight is associated with numerous diseases and conditions including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea, gallbladder disease, infertility, and some cancers.5 The direct and indirect costs of obesity are considerable, with the associated expenses representing 7% of the national health care budget in the United States, 7% in the Netherlands, 4% in France, and 2% in Australia.6 Clearly, overnutrition is a serious health hazard world wide with significant financial expense.

Our genetic pool has not been altered dramatically over the past 10 years. Consequently, …