Weight Watchers vs. fitness centers

Jul 02, 2008

In the first study of its kind, using sophisticated methods to measure body composition, the nationally known commercial weight loss program, Weight Watchers, was compared to gym membership programs to find out which method wins in the game of good health. A University of Missouri researcher examined the real-life experiences of participants to determine which program helps people lose pounds, reduce body fat and gain health benefits. The answer is that both have pros and cons and that a combination of the two produces the best results.

Participants who attended Weight Watchers for 12 weeks lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight, or about nine pounds. However, Steve Ball, assistant professor of exercise physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, found that a large percentage of the lost weight was lean tissue and not fat.

"Participants' body fat percentage did not improve at all because they lost a much higher percentage than expected of lean tissue," said Ball, MU Extension state fitness specialist. "It is advantageous to keep lean tissue because it is correlated with higher metabolism. Losing lean tissue often slows metabolism. What your body is made of is more important than what you weigh."

The majority of other Weight Watcher studies had not considered body fat percentage change and only focused on body weight.

"This is one aspect of our study that makes it unique," Ball said. "We used a sophisticated measure of body composition – the Bod Pod – to look at what type of weight was lost: lean or fat."

In addition, Ball said the study was novel because Computer Tomography (CT scans) were used to investigate changes in abdominal fat, which is more predictive of cardiovascular disease. Although the fitness center group lost very little weight, they probably improved their health because they lost a significant amount of intraabdominal fat (fat around vital organs). These results imply that exercise may have positive influence on the metabolic syndrome despite the number on the scale, Ball concluded.

Ball also found that group support is very important. Most of the Weight Watchers participants stuck with the program during the duration of the study, while many of the fitness center participants quit.

"These results imply that overweight, sedentary women joining a fitness center with the intent of weight loss or body fat change will likely fail without support and without altering their diets," Ball said. "Nearly 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will quit within six months."

"This study attempted to discover what takes place in the real world when overweight women attempt to lose weight." Ball said. "I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight-loss programs."

The study – "Comparison of a Commercial Weight Loss Program to a Fitness Center" – was published online in the June edition of the Journal of Exercise Physiology.

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: Europe's police crack massive horsemeat trafficking ring

Related Stories

Nepal quake: Nearly 1,400 dead, Everest shaken (Update)

3 hours ago

Tens of thousands of people were spending the night in the open under a chilly and thunderous sky after a powerful earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, killing nearly 1,400, collapsing modern houses and ...

Russian hackers read Obama emails, report says

3 hours ago

Emails to and from President Barack Obama were read by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House's unclassified computer system, The New York Times said Saturday.

Supermarkets welcome cold-comfort edge of F1 aerofoils

8 hours ago

UK-based Williams Advanced Engineering, the technology and engineering services business of the Williams Group, has collaborated with UK-based Aerofoil Energy to develop an aerodynamic device that can reduce ...

Public boarding school—the way to solve educational ills?

12 hours ago

Buffalo's chronically struggling school system is considering an idea gaining momentum in other cities: public boarding schools that put round-the-clock attention on students and away from such daunting problems as poverty, ...

Recommended for you

Europe's police crack massive horsemeat trafficking ring

Apr 25, 2015

Police from seven European countries detained 26 people in a crackdown on a horsemeat trafficking ring two years after a tainted meat scandal that rocked the continent, the EU's judicial agency Eurojust said Saturday.

Text messaging useful for reaching 'at-risk' teens about sex

Apr 24, 2015

Text messaging that connects teens with sexual health educators is effective for delivering sexual health information, according to a recent study in The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.The ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.