Purpose: Physical activity is an integral part of weight control programs, but recommended amounts vary. The objectives of this study were to describe the prevalence and characteristics of those who reported using exercise as a weight loss strategy (N = 14,716), and to determine the prevalence of meeting various institutionally recommended levels of physical activity (N = 8538) among that population.
Methods: Data were obtained from the 1998 National Health Interview Survey, a face-to-face nationally representative household interview. Questions on leisure-time physical activity were analyzed using SUDAAN.
Results: Among those who reported trying to lose weight, 55% reported using exercise as a weight loss strategy alone, and of those, 58% reported eating fewer calories. The prevalence of using exercise as a weight loss strategy was directly associated with education and inversely associated with age and body mass index. Among those who reported using exercise as a weight loss strategy, 57% met the minimal 1998 National Institutes of Health recommendation of ≥150 min·wk-1; 46% met the lower end of the 2001 American College of Sports Medicine recommendation of 200 min·wk-1; and 30% met the upper end for 300 min·wk-1. Only 19% met the 2002 Institute of Medicine recommendation of 420 min·wk-1.
Conclusions: Despite the importance of physical activity in a weight loss program, only about half of the persons trying to lose weight reported using exercise. Even among those, only slightly more than half met the minimal recommendations for physical activity. Efforts are needed to aid those trying to lose weight to incorporate appropriate levels of physical activity into their weight loss strategy.