Women living in rural communities can prevent gradually gaining a kilo every year with a self-directed health program, Australian researchers have found.
A study, published in PLOS Medicine this week, showed that a low-intensity health intervention featuring simple diet and physical activity modifications and educational support prevented Victorian women aged 18-to-50 years from unexpectedly gaining nearly a kilo in one year.
Researcher and head of Monash University’s Healthy Lifestyle Research Program, Dr Catherine Lombard, says although one kilogram of weight loss per year does not sound like a lot, it can help women counteract ‘creeping’ weight gain over time.
Although one kilogram of weight loss per year does not sound like a lot, it can help women counteract ‘creeping’ weight gain over time.
“In Australia, like many other countries on average every adult gains just under one kilo per year,” says Dr Lombard.
“That’s eight-to-10 kilos every decade.
“If we can slow this down it means not as many of us will have to resort to strict weight loss programs, gym sessions or surgery.”
The ‘HeLP-her’ intervention, a self-management lifestyle program, was tested on women living in rural Victoria across 21 different communities.
It included a one-off group information session with simple health messages, a program manual to facilitate personalised weight gain prevention, monthly reminder text messages, and a 20-minute personal phone coaching session.
“We focused on women making small changes to their eating and activity: we didn't tell them what to eat or when to exercise,” she says.
This was not a weight loss program but this program motivated some women to lose a lot of weight: up to 10-15kg for the year.
“We gave them some general healthy eating and activity messages. They decided what they would do and we supported them.”
The other 20 control towns participated in a one-off 45-minute group education session on general women’s health, with information about guidelines on diet and physical activity, without individual advice.
All the Victorian towns were randomly selected and had a total population between
2,000 and 10,000 people.
The results showed that the intervention group lost an average of one kilo throughout the year-long trial, proving that simple non-prescriptive health messages can be effective in the battle of the creeping bulge.
“This was not a weight loss program but this program motivated some women to lose a lot of weight: up to 10-15kg for the year.
“The program is useful for all women no mater what their current weight and particularly those who are noticing a small increase in weight each year.”
In Australia, young women living in rural and metropolitan areas gain an average of 700 grams and 550 grams per year, respectively.
The study was completed in the context of rising obesity and chronic illness rates.
“Rates of obesity are generally higher among women than men and, in affluent countries, rural-dwelling women have higher rates of weight gain and obesity than urban-dwelling women,” the study states.
Increased body fat is associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.
“In Australia, young women living in rural and metropolitan areas gain an average of 700 grams and 550 grams per year, respectively.”
Obesity is defined by calculating a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI).
After dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared, an obese individual will have a ‘BMI’ equal to or more than 30 kg/m2. Overweight individuals have a BMI of 25.0–29.9 kg/m2.
Almost 650 women with an average BMI of 28.2kg/m2 (in the overweight category) participated in the trial.
“BMI increases with age in most adults although in recent years young adults have been shown to be gaining body fat faster than older adults.
“However, the adult weight gain per year is generally less than one kilogram and could be prevented by encouraging people to eat just a little less and exercise just a little more.”