For the 90 million or so American adults who are obese, shedding the pounds might seem like an impossible feat. That’s why researchers turned their attention to those who were successful. Study participants who had lost 30 or more pounds — and kept it off for at least a year — revealed the key to maintaining weight loss is the consistency of their moderate- to vigorous-intensity workouts. Researchers compared individuals who usually exercised at the same time of day with those who had more sporadic workout habits.
Researchers asked the consistent exercisers to rate the following statements, and then looked for patterns to see which were the most strongly associated with how many days they worked out each week. Here’s how they ranked, with No. 1 corresponding to working out the most:
Each time I exercise ...
1. I do it automatically. / I do it without having to consciously remember. / I do it without thinking. / I start doing it before I realize I’m doing it.
2. I am in the same part of my daily routine.
3. It’s the same time of day.
4. I am doing the same type of exercise.
5. I am in the same place.
6. I am in the same mood.
No effect: I am around the same people.
How automatic the exercise was — whether exercisers were heading to the gym or otherwise working out without really thinking about it — turned out to be most associated with which participants were consistent exercisers. But, as always, correlation doesn’t prove causation — consistency of exercise could also be causing that automatic approach. Either way, it seems that turning exercise into a routine is key to weight loss.
Source: “Relationship of Consistency in Timing of Exercise Performance and Exercise Levels Among Successful Weight Loss Maintainers,” Obesity, 2019
[This story originally appeared in print as "What's Their Secret?"]