A newly published UCLA study suggests our media and cultural obsession with achieving a certain weight does little to convince couch potatoes of any size to abandon their favorite sofa cushions and get active. In fact, those messages may actually undermine motivation to adopt exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits.
Published in the June edition of the peer-reviewed journal Obesity, the cross-cultural study finds that women are more likely to categorize themselves as overweight than men, both overall and within each ethnic group. In addition, African Americans are least likely and whites most likely to consider themselves overweight. The study finds that even among many adults of average or normal weight -- men in particular -- a self-perceived weight problem correlates with sedentary behavior.
White women of average weight are the only ethnic-gender group studied in which the proportion of sedentary individuals is not higher among those who consider themselves overweight, versus average weight, the study shows. White women are also the only ethnic-gender group in which average-weight individuals comprise the majority.
The researchers noted that in addition to cultural expectations, greater access to fitness programs, "walkable" neighborhoods, quality child and elder care, and flexible work hours all help make the choice to be active easier for white women overall than their Latina and African American counterparts.
"These data suggest that our society's emphasis on weight loss rather than lifestyle change may inadvertently discourage even non-obese people from adopting or maintaining the physical activity necessary for long-term good health," said Dr. Antronette Yancey, lead author of the study and associate professor of health services at the UCLA School of Public Health.
"All groups may benefit from messages that shift the focus away from a specific target weight and associated calorie counting, and in
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University of California - Los Angeles