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Even Minimal Exercise Helps Overweight Women

Three days per week can increase fitness by 4.2 percent over sedentary control

TUESDAY, May 15 (HealthDay News) -- As little as 72 minutes of physical activity per week can help improve the fitness of sedentary postmenopausal women who are overweight or obese, researchers report in the May 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Timothy S. Church, M.D., Ph.D., of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and colleagues randomized 464 women with elevated blood pressure and a body mass index between 25 and 43, to six months of physical activity at 50, 100 and 150 percent of the weekly energy expenditure recommended by the NIH Consensus Development Panel.

The investigators found a graded response in overall fitness, measured as absolute oxygen consumption on a cycle ergometer, that reached 8.2 percent over control for the highest energy expenditure. The study authors note that even the lowest physical activity group, accounting for 4-kcal/kg or 72 minutes of exercise per week over three days, showed a 4.2 percent improvement over the control group. There were no effects on systolic or diastolic blood pressure, however.

The study provides "important information on the dose of physical activity to improve physical fitness, a strong predictor of chronic disease and premature mortality," according to an editorial by I-Min Lee, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "This may be succinctly summarized for patients and clinicians as 'Even a little is good; more may be better!'"

The authors report receiving compensation in the form of consulting fees, lecture fees, honoraria, or royalties from Trestle Tree, Inc., and Jenny Craig, among others.

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