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Reduced Activity Over Time Hikes Women's Obesity Risk

Decreasing activity from youth to adulthood increases risk of abdominal obesity in women, but not men

THURSDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Women who become less physically active from youth to adulthood are at greater risk of becoming overweight or obese, in contrast to men, according to a study in the May issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Olli T. Raitakari, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Turku in Finland, and colleagues examined the association between physical activity from youth to adulthood and body mass index and waist circumference in 1,319 Finns who were 9 to 18 years old in 1980. Subjects were followed for 21 years and physical activity was assessed through a questionnaire and a medical examination.

The researchers classified 33.1 percent of men and 32 percent of women as persistently active and 11.5 percent of men and 7.4 percent of women as persistently inactive during the follow-up period. Women who became less active over time were more likely to be overweight (odds ratio, 2.35), obese (OR, 2.72), mildly abdominally obese (OR, 2.21), and severely abdominally obese (OR, 2.19). By contrast, changes in physical activity over time among men were not associated with obesity or overweight after adjustment for confounding variables.

"Maintaining a high level of physical activity from youth to adulthood is independently associated with lower risk of abdominal obesity among women, but not men," the authors write. "Changes in physical activity patterns during the lifetime may contribute to the development of abdominal obesity in women."

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