Ewa Hammarberg, Regina Papp, Andi Gaywood, Jean Pierre Ferraroli and Ihab Tewfik, University of Westminster, UK
Background: Physical activity is a potentially cost-effective approach to reduce overweight/obesity and possible complications (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers). Despite physical activity guidelines recommendations from government bodies and health organisations such as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), UK adult obesity rates have significantly increased.
Aim: The present study investigated if these guidelines do enough to improve body composition and weight to prevent complications. We hypothesized that moderate/vigorous exercise following the above guidelines can significantly improve health status.
Methods: The study has completed three subsequent phases, each lasting five weeks. Presumable healthy participants were recruited between ages 20 and 65 years old. The effects of vigorous vs. moderate physical activity on participants’ health status were compared by using supervised/unsupervised interventions following the NICE, ACSM and AICR guidelines.
Results: Phase 1 was completed with a 21.4% attrition rate and there were statistically significant reductions in systolic BP (- 6%, p=0.018); triglycerides (-30.5%, p=0.046); LDL cholesterol (-14.4%, p=0.021). Phase 2 was concluded with a 14.3% attrition rate and statistically significant changes in systolic BP (-3.6%, p=0.042) and HDL cholesterol (+ 7.5%, p=0.244). In Phase 3, when participants were unsupervised, no comparable qualitative data was reported as only 50% of participants completed their final assessments.
Conclusion: The reported findings suggest that over a longer period, with consistent and regular physical activity, body composition can be improved and the markers of cardiovascular risk can be ameliorated. Therefore, in essence, applying the current physical activity guideline is valid. However, as compliance was significantly higher when physical activity sessions were supervised, a multi-factorial approach addressing behavioural changes and adherence could promote health status more efficiently. Using the word ‘exercise’ could be more appropriate as it is planned, structured and incorporates the significance of goal setting.
Keywords: Physical activity, exercise, overweight, obesity, governmental guidelines, compliance