The role of free-living daily walking in human weight gain and obesity

James A. Levine, Shelly K. Mecrady, Lorraine M. Lanningham-Foster, Paul H. Kane, Randal C. Foster, Chlnmay U. Manohar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE-Diminished daily physical activity explains, in part, why obesity and diabetes have become worldwide epidemics. In particular, chair use has replaced ambulation, so that obese individuals tend to sit for ∼2.5 h/day more than lean counterparts. Here, we address the hypotheses that free-living daily walking distance is decreased in obesity compared with lean subjects and that experimental weight gain precipitates decreased daily walking. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS- During weight-main- tenance feeding, we measured free-living walking using a validated system that captures locomotion and body movement for 10 days in 22 healthy lean and obese sedentary individuals. These measurements were then repeated after the lean and obese subjects were overfed by 1,000 kcal/day for 8 weeks. RESULTS- We found that free-living walking comprises many (∼47) short-duration (<15 min), low-velocity (∼1 mph) walking bouts. Lean subjects walked 3.5 miles/day more than obese subjects (n = 10, 10,3 ± 2.5 vs. n = 12, 6.7 ± 1,8 miles/day; P = 0.0009). With overfeeding, walking distance decreased by 1.5 miles/day compared with baseline values (-1.5 ± 1.7 miles/day; P = 0.0005). The decrease in walking that accompanied overfeeding occurred to a similar degree in the lean (-1.4 ± 1.9 miles/day; P = 0.04) and obese (-1.6 ± 1.7 miles/day; P = 0.008) subjects. CONCLUSIONS-Walking is decreased in obesity and declines with weight gain. This may represent a continuum whereby progressive increases in weight are associated with progressive decreases in walking distance. By identifying walking as pivotal in weight gain and obesity, we hope to add credence to an argument for an ambulatory future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)548-554
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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