Loyola MedicineA latest study states that lesser or increased physical activity does not necessarily contribute to obesity. The Loyola University Health System researchers along with other centers have compared the metropolitan Chicago African American women with rural Nigerian women.

About 149 Nigerian and 172 Chicagoan African American women were studied. The approximate weight of Chicagoan women was about 184 pounds, while the Nigerian women weighed about 127 pounds. The researchers supposedly expected the Nigerian women to prove to be more physically active. However they were astounded to see that the amount of calories burned through physical activity of both the groups of women, were about the same.

The U.S. government guidelines recommend these weekly exercises for adults: about 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of strenuous activity, and also muscle strengthening activities twice per week.

Amy Luke, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, and also the study author, says that, “Decreased physical activity may not be the primary driver of the obesity epidemic.”

Physical activities benefit the human body not only physically, but mentally as well. Co-author Richard Cooper, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, says that through exercises people burn a lot of calories, however through excessive consumption they make up for the amount of calories burned. He says, “We would love to say that physical activity has a positive effect on weight control, but that does not appear to be the case.”

Luke says that, “Evidence is beginning to accumulate that dietary intake may be more important than energy expenditure level. Weight loss is not likely to happen without dietary restraint.”

The increase in the weight of Chicago women may be due to their diet, and not the amount of physical activity. It is stated that the Nigerian diet included high amount of carbohydrates, fibers and low fat. On the contrary, most of the diet of Chicago women consisted of fat and processed foodstuffs.

Thus a healthy lifestyle in addition to a disciplined exercise regime may lead to a decrease in obesity risk.

Their findings are published in the Obesity journal.