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Vacation Weight Gain May Contribute to Obesity

Many people consider vacation to be a break from everything — including exercise and eating healthy. In line with this, a recent study suggests that people gain an average of one pound for every one week to three week vacation, which can contribute to “creeping obesity.”

Creeping obesity is the slow gain of body fat over a long period of time, which can lead to increased health problems later in life.

Participants in the study included 122 people between the ages of 18 and 65, with an average age of 32. All of the participants went on one to three week vacations between the months of March and August. All of them came in for three lab visits, during which height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, and waist-to-hip ratio were measured. The first visit was one week before the vacation, the second one week after vacation, and the third six weeks after vacation.

The researchers found that 61% of the participants gained weight over their vacation, with an average 0.7 pound weight gain. The average weight gain over the entire study period was 0.9 pounds.

They also found that the participants gained weight despite an increase in physical activity during the vacation. This was partially due to increased caloric intake, especially of alcohol, during the vacation.  On average, the participants consumed eight alcoholic drinks per week prio to vacation, and 16 drinks per week during vacation. Participants also typically saw a decrease in physical activity in the weeks following vacation.

There were, however, benefits to the vacations including lower stress levels and a small reduction in systolic blood pressure for as long as six weeks post-vacation.

Researchers from the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on January 5, 2016, in Physiology & Behavior.

Obesity has a far ranging negative effect on health.  Each year, obesity causes approximately 300,000 premature deaths in the United States.  The negative health effects associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea.

Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity.  It is recommended that we eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It’s also recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day and, as this study shows, increase that physical activity post-vacation.

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