A simple exercise goal may make it easy to avoid unhealthy weight gain

TRONDHEIM, Norway — As many people pack on the pounds during the holiday season, unhealthy weight gain will be a major obstacle for those dieting and exercising. A recent study, however, has found a new way to keep track of exercise and avoid additional weight gain. Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTNU) say using Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) can help keep your healthy habits intact and your waistline in check.

It’s no secret that maintaining healthier habits, like regular exercise, keep off extra pounds. Health regimens such as the implementation of a more nutritional diet and regular exercise are still the best methods for losing weight and keeping it off. However, it is sometimes difficult to determine the necessary amount of exercise to keep that weight off.

PAI 100 is the goal to hit

PAI assesses any cardio activity or exercise that leads to a heart rate spike beyond a specified threshold. The Cardiac Exercise Research Group (CERG) at NTNU, under the direction of Professor Ulrik Wislff, established the exercise standard.

Any device used to monitor heart rate can also calculate PAI. Similar to some dietary point systems, PAI is calculated based on the amount and intensity of exercise. For comparison, a 20-minute, high-intensity cardio session twice a week is equivalent to 100 PAI. That’s the recommended amount to maintain a healthy weight. For those who prefer more moderate exercise, people can still attain 100 PAI by walking 10 hours each week.

Since it is a measurement of the combined exercise necessary to elevate the heart rate, a person could mix different exercises to reach the 100 PAI goal. The more intense the cardio activity is, the quicker a person can achieve the goal.

Physical exercise recommendations in Norway are primarily expressed in 100 PAI. At 75 minutes of intense exercise, 300 minutes of minimal exercise, or a mix of elevated and low-intensity movements that deliver similar levels of activity every week, you’re likely to attain 100 PAI in most circumstances.

“Previously, we found that 100 PAI a week can give us a longer and healthier life without cardiovascular disease. Our new study shows that PAI can also help people maintain a healthy body weight,” says researcher Javaid Nauman at NTNU’s Department of Circulation and Imaging in a university release.

More physical activity keeps the pounds off

The HUNT Study, a long-term population-based investigation in Norway, provided the data for this latest research. Among the most extensive and comprehensive health studies, the database comprises information from more than 240,000 people of Trøndelag county and has been ongoing for more than two decades now.

Of those, researchers surveyed over 85,000 healthy participants regarding their physical activity levels and weight on a regular basis within the year 2008. Participants gained an average of 17.5 pounds between 1984, when the study began, and 2008. Those who reached the 100 PAI goal each week however, gained less weight than those who did not hit a 100 PAI exercise level.

Although results indicate better odds for those who regularly exercise, those who did not regularly exercise when the study began, still showed less weight gain by the follow-up period in 2008 simply by increasing their overall exercise activity. These results show promise for reducing the health issues that stem from obesity.

“We already know that physical activity is an effective strategy to minimize or prevent weight gain in adults. The new study, and previous PAI studies, indicate that PAI can guide people so that they get enough physical activity each week to avoid the health hazards of excessive weight gain,” Nauman concludes.

The findings appear in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe.