Community Program Can Prevent Weight Gain in Women – Australian Study
Wednesday, 14th July 2010 at 4:37 pm
A simple community program has been shown to be effective in preventing excess weight gain commonly experienced by young mothers according to leading women's health organisation, the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health.
The research, published online in the British Medical Journal (at bmj.com) has found that weight gain can be prevented with a program based on simple health messages, small changes to behaviour, and delivered conveniently in a community setting.
Health problems related to obesity are major issues in developed countries. Australia is the fourth biggest nation, with 60% of adults either overweight or obese. The World Health Organization recommends weight management initiatives to include efforts to try to prevent adults from gaining weight, even if they are in an acceptable weight range.
The Foundation says young women in Australia are now gaining weight at a faster rate than women in any other age, increasing their risk for weight-related illnesses.
The study investigated whether women who attended the Healthy Lifestyle Program (HeLP-her) gained more or less weight than women who attended a single thirty minute group lecture about the benefits of following population dietary and physical activity guidelines.
Two hundred and fifty women aged between 25 and 49 years of age took part in the research, led by Dr Catherine Lombard with Professor Helena Teede from the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health in collaboration with Monash University in Melbourne. Women within the healthy weight range were included as well as overweight and obese women.
According to the authors, women are an important group to target in preventing weight gain because their lifestyle changes after they have children – and this can impact on the entire family.
Dr Lombard says their level of physical activity drops off and their diet changes and women also tend to be in control of what food is in the house so they can influence what their partner and children eat and how much activity their children do.
Women in the intervention group attended just four interactive sessions at the local primary school where they discussed how to change their behaviour.
Dr Lombard says women were not given a diet to follow or an exercise plan as they wanted the women to decide themselves what was important and possible to change at that time in their lives.
Dr Lombard, who is presenting additional study findings at an international obesity conference in Europe, says women were taught how to overcome barriers to healthy eating and physical activity and strategies to prevent relapses to help maintain their healthier lifestyles.
The study also looked at what stops them from adopting healthy eating or engaging in more activity and how they could overcome that.
The women in the intervention group also received monthly SMS text messages encouraging them to stay active, eat well and follow a healthy lifestyle throughout the twelve months of the research project.
Women in the control group gained an average of 830 grams – just under a kilo – during the 12-month study and overall there was a 1kg difference between the groups. Participants in the control group who were less than 40 and within a healthy weight range gained the most weight (1.72kg). In contrast women under 40 in the intervention group lost around 0.27kg.
Jean Hailes Director of Research and Monash University Chair of Women’s Health, Professor Helena Teede says while not a huge amount of weight was lost, the key issue is that this simple program stopped women putting on weight.
Professor Teede says that in another decade or two these women could be 15-20kg heavier, putting themselves at greater risk of chronic disease. The aim of the research was to develop a simple program that prevented women gaining more weight and the HeLP-her Healthy Lifestyle Program did achieve that.
She says the research found that you can’t just give women a few brochures about diet and exercise and expect them to do it themselves and excitingly, the research suggests that it only takes small, simple changes, together with a bit of support, for ordinary women to successfully control their weight.
The research was supported by funding from the William Buckland Foundation and Vicfit.
Women interested in learning more about healthy eating and physical activity can request a healthy lifestyle information pack online at www.jeanhailes.org.au or call toll free on 1800 151 441.