The relationship between activity level, body weight and age

Judith Louise Goldberg, Fordham University


The contribution of inactivity to the condition of obesity has been the focus of much research. In this study, activity levels of women of various weights and ages were examined. Daily mileage of 30 lean, 30 overweight, and 49 obese women, aged 21 to 55, was measured for two weeks by means of pedometers worn at the waist. Mileage was converted into six measures of activity, including four measures reflecting energy expenditure. The relationships between percent overweight, age and activity were examined. Activity measures were expected to follow a specific pattern. It was hypothesized that in relation to each of the independent variables, activity level would remain at a high and constant level until it reached a point at which it noticeably and suddenly decreased to a new, lower level, at which it would remain constant against any increases in weight and/or age. Weight, age and the weight x age interaction were examined in three theoretically based thirds. The results supported the hypothesis that activity levels of subjects in the lowest third, for both weight and age, would not differ significantly from those of lean subjects. The hypothesis of a drop-off in activity levels in the middle third was not supported. In the highest third of the distributions, findings varied with activity measures. When subjects in the highest third, for both weight alone and weight x age, were compared to lean and overweight subjects, differences in ambulation were nonsignificant. When subjects in the highest third were compared only to lean subjects, they were found to walk significantly less than the lean group. However, levels of energy expenditure of subjects in the highest third for weight and weight x age were significantly higher than those of subjects in the lowest third. Age alone was not found to be a factor in activity level. In this study, it was found that as women become increasingly obese, their activity (degree of ambulation) decreases, but their energy expenditure, or the amount of "work" they do, increases. To see the obese as less effortful is erroneous and misleading. The implications of these results were discussed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Physiological psychology|Public health

Recommended Citation

Goldberg, Judith Louise, "The relationship between activity level, body weight and age" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9020010.