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Weight gain prevention, not loss, reverses obesity epidemic


from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

March 29 , 2005
For immediate release

Christa Dickey
Dan Henkel

Leading obesity expert says food restriction, diets wrong way to curb obesity

LAS VEGAS - Small behavior changes to prevent weight gain in adults and reduce weight gain in children is the only effective strategy to address the obesity epidemic in the future, said James O. Hill, Ph.D., in today's opening keynote address at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition in Las Vegas. Hill, the pioneer of the successful "America on the Move" program, emphasized it's the creeping pounds over time that turn people overweight and obese, and food restriction and dieting without physical activity cannot reverse obesity.

"Most people who lose weight regain it," said Hill. "Very few lose weight and keep it off for good, and that's not a good strategy to address obesity. Restricting food without physical activity is the wrong way to do it. It's not work hard to eat less, it's increasing energy expenditure with physical activity. Put simply, people who restrict food in hopes of battling obesity will fail, but those who are physically active have a better chance of success."

Hill recommends focusing on small lifestyle changes to permanently boost physical activity each day. Our physical environment, and the barriers it creates, does not sustain healthy eating and physical activity. Habits including food preparation and portion sizes, to perceived lack of time and driving everywhere leads to weight gain over time. To stop excessive weight gain, experts promote walking as a small, easy-to-make change to make to increase physical activity.

Communities play an important role in supporting lifestyle changes. Some successful community-based programs offer people a reason to be more physically-active through incentive programs. Hill highlighted some program successes involving community leaders and business owners:

Dry cleaners or other local businesses offer a 10 percent discount to customers wearing a step counter.
Restaurants offer a discount for food ordered from the healthier menu.
Realtors give pedometers to new homeowners, along with a map of the neighborhood showing step counts.
Communities put up directional signs, announcing 3,000 Steps to the Recreation Center, or 5,000 Steps to Starbucks.
"Communities are beginning to see the value of getting more involved in the health and wellness of their residents," said Hill. "Preventing excessive weight gain is the number one challenge in the obesity battle from a public health standpoint. Everyone in the community can play a role focusing on what we can do to prevent weight gain and redirecting attention on preventing obesity, rather than treating it."

For more information on lifestyle changes that promote physical activity, visit and the "America on the Move" Web site at


The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life.