Some People May Need More Exercise to Lose Weight

Scientists say individuals with genetic risk factors for obesity may have to walk more steps or work out longer to prevent weight gain and obesity.

Some people can eat what they want and not gain a pound, while others swear that if they even look at food, the weight piles on. Moreover, the same scenario may occur with exercise. For example, two people can work out with the same intensity and achieve wildly different results.

Now, new research published in JAMA Network Open has revealed that people with a high genetic risk for obesity may have to work out harder than those with lower obesity risks to avoid gaining weight.

The study, conducted by researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, involved 3,124 middle-aged adults without obesity who used a Fitbit device and walked an average of 8,326 steps per day for more than five years.

The scientists observed that 13% of participants with low genetic risks for obesity and 43% with high genetic risks became obese over the study period.

To prevent weight gain, people at high genetic risk for obesity had to walk around 2,280 more steps per day, or 11,020 steps total, than those at lower risk. Moreover, among those at high risk, the higher the participant's body mass index (BMI), the more steps they were required to take to avoid weight increases.

For example, a person at a high genetic risk of obesity with a BMI of 28, which is classified as overweight, would need to walk 6,350 more steps per day to have similar weight control as someone with a low risk for obesity.

Still, the study's authors say people with high genetic risk factors for obesity shouldn't be discouraged as there are ways to prevent gaining weight.

"I would like for patients to know that your genetic risk doesn't determine your overall risk of obesity, and you can actually overcome that risk by being more active," explained lead author Evan Brittain, M.D., associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at VUMC, in a press release.

People can become more active by making simple adjustments to their lifestyle. For example, walking one mile equals around 2,000 steps. So, walking to the store, taking a stroll during lunch breaks, or adding 10-minute walking sessions throughout the day can increase daily step counts and may help overcome genetic risks for weight gain.


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