Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2014-093416
  • Original article

Current physical activity guidelines for health are insufficient to mitigate long-term weight gain: more data in the fitness versus fatness debate (The HUNT study, Norway)

  1. Javaid Nauman1
  1. 1Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Faculty of Medicine, KG Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  2. 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, St. Olav's Hospital, Trondheim, Norway
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health and Child Welfare, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Trine Moholdt, Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Faculty of Medicine, KG Jebsen Center of Exercise in Medicine, Prinsesse Kristinas gt 3/ PO Box 8905, 7491 Trondheim 7022, Norway; trine.moholdt{at}
  • Accepted 3 April 2014
  • Published Online First 29 April 2014


Background To promote and maintain health, all adults are recommended to do moderate-intensity aerobic activity a minimum of 30 min on 5 days, or vigorous-intensity activity of 20 min on 3 days, each week. Whether these levels prevent long-term weight gain is uncertain.

Objective To assess the relationship between physical activity and long-term weight gain.

Study design An observational prospective cohort study.

Methods Weight and physical activity were measured in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study in 1984–1986, 1995–1997 and 2006–2008. Participants (n=19 127) were classified based on physical activity into inactive, below recommended level, recommended level or above recommended level. We carried out adjusted mixed model regression analyses with weight as outcome.

Results Men maintaining physical activity above the recommendations for 33 years increased 5.6 kg, while inactive men increased 9.1 kg. For women, corresponding numbers were 3.8 kg in those above recommended physical activity levels, and 9.5 kg in inactive. In adjusted analyses, physical activity above the recommendations was associated with 2.1 kg (95% CI 1.8 to 2.4) less weight gain in men over any 11-year period, compared with inactive. Women exceeding the recommendations gained 1.8 kg (CI 1.5 to 2.2) less than inactive. Compared with inactive, the ORs of gaining meaningful weight of ≥2.3 kg were 0.79 (CI 0.69 to 0.91) and 0.70 (CI 0.60 to 0.81) if exceeding the recommendations in men and women, respectively.

Conclusions Physical activity above the current recommendations for health benefits was associated with significantly lower risk of weight gain.

Responses to this article

Free sample

This 2015 issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of BJSM.
View free sample issue >>

Email alerts

Don't forget to sign up for content alerts so you keep up to date with all the articles as they are published.

Navigate This Article