Obese can get healthier without diets

obesityLONDON - Obese women can improve their health without dieting by changing their eating habits and exercising more, researchers said on Monday.

They showed that lifestyle changes including exercise programs such as tai chi, aqua aerobics and circuit training, coupled with behavior modification, can improve health risks in obese women even if they do not lose significant amounts of weight.

“People of all sizes and shapes can reduce their risk of poor health by adopting a healthier lifestyle,” Dr Erika Borkoles, of Leeds Metropolitan University in England, told a news conference.

Obesity is a growing public health problem worldwide and a leading preventable cause of death. An estimated 300 million people worldwide are obese.

Public health experts expect the figure to increase unless urgent action is taken. Being overweight or obese increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Borkoles and her colleagues, who are presenting their research at the UK Society of Behavioral Medicine meeting, tested the program that focuses on health benefits rather than weight loss on 62 obese women.

Although the average weight loss was small, from 239 lbs. to 233.7 lbs., after a year on the program, the women showed improvements in their self image, were fitter and less stressed.

“Psychological and physical health improved independent of substantial weight loss,” said Borkoles, adding that weight is a poor predictor of health.

There were also improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart rates in the participants in the study.

The women, who were aged between 24 and 55, were encouraged not to diet but were taught about healthy eating, how to read food labels and prepare nutritious meals. They also had to do four hours of exercise a week and were given social support.

Copyright 2006 Reuters