Regular moderate to vigorous physical exercise in the 20 years leading up to middle age is linked to smaller gains in weight and waist size, particularly for women, according to US researchers who stressed the importance of doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day throughout young adulthood to help minimize middle age spread.

Dr Arlene L Hankinson, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, and colleagues looked at links between higher activity levels and changes in body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference over 20 years in young adults. They wrote about their findings in the December 15 issue of JAMA.

Obesity has been rising steeply in the US for the last 35 years, to the point where today, over 30 per cent of American adults are now obese, a condition that brings with it serious life-changing consequences such as chronic ill health and disability.

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