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Numerous research studies have shown us the importance of regular exercise for both weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy body weight. However the vast majority of these studies have typically been relatively short-term, running anywhere from 3 months to 3 years. From these studies, we typically infer that maintaining a lifelong habit of regular exercise is important for the maintenance of a healthy body weight; however, few studies have actually tested this.
A research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tested the impact of long-term exercise on long-term weight maintenance. For this study, researchers collected information from more than 3,500 men and women who took part in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults and who were 18 - 30 years of age at the start of the study. Study volunteers were classified as maintaining either a high, moderate, or low level of physical activity based on activity scores at the start of the study. The study investigators collected information on body weight, waist size, and physical activity at regular intervals during a 20-year follow-up period. The results of this study showed that: