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Physical activity is an important component in weight loss treatment and weight maintenance. We evaluated the physical activity component of two weight loss programmes, either standard care (SC) as defined by national guidelines, or a commercial programme (CP; Weight Watchers) over the period of weight loss and follow-up. 772 adults (mean body mass index: 31.4 ± 2.6 kg m(-2)) were recruited by primary care practices in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and randomly assigned to 12 months SC, or the CP. They were then followed up at 24 months. Change in physical activity levels were assessed by the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ)-short form, and pedometer recordings. Both groups reported increases in physical activity using the IPAQ from baseline to 12 months and 24 months (within groups P < 0.0001) and in pedometer steps from baseline to 12 months only (within groups P < 0.0001). Differences between groups with both methods of assessment were not significant. There was a significant difference in weight loss between the groups at 12 months favouring the CP group; however, this statistical difference was not maintained at 24 months. In conclusion, despite similar increases in reported activity, there were significant differences in weight loss and regain between groups. Therefore, greater weight loss seen with the CP is unlikely to be due to increases in physical activity. Trends in pedometer steps mirrored changes in weight over time more closely than the IPAQ; however, both assessment tools have limitations. Better activity assessment measures are needed to more accurately gauge changes in physical activity during weight loss interventions.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Obes

Publication Date





127 - 135


Commercial programme, IPAQ, obesity, pedometer, Adult, Body Mass Index, Exercise Therapy, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motor Activity, Obesity, Weight Loss, Young Adult