December 15, 2008

Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen

Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen

In a 15-year study of leisure walking patterns, Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD, and colleagues have found that regular walking helps counteract age-related weight gain. The study findings are published online in the Dec. 3 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Gordon-Larsen, associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, found a substantial association between walking and annualized weight change. The greatest association was for men and women with larger baseline weights. 

For example, for women at the 75th percentile of baseline weight, 30 minutes of walking per day was associated with 8 kilograms less weight gain over 15 years, as compared with women who reported no leisure-time walking. Each extra half-hour per day of walking was associated with an annual reduced weight gain of one pound (15 pounds over 15 years) for women who were heaviest at baseline. 

Results were similar, but of less impact, in men. 

Thus, walking may be of particular importance to prevent age-related weight gain in young, heavy women.

To maintain a healthy weight, the Institute of Medicine recommends 60 minutes of brisk walking (or its energy equivalent) per day. Nonetheless, in the past two decades, studies report decreased physical activity and increased prevalence of overweight and obesity across all sex, age and racial and ethnic groups. 

Because walking is a relatively inexpensive popular form of leisure-time physical activity for adults, it has been promoted as a targeted activity to achieve national physical activity recommendations. Gordon-Larsen’s study suggests that even a relatively short period of walking may help prevent some weight gain related to aging. 

Dr. Barry Popkin

Dr. Barry Popkin

Gillings School of Global Public Health study co-authors also include nutrition doctoral student Ningqi Hou and Barry Popkin, PhD, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor in the Department of Nutrition and director of the UNC Interdisciplinary Obesity Center. 

Other co-authors are Steve Sidney and Barbara Sternfeld, of Kaiser Permanente, in Oakland, Calif.; Cora E. Lewis, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and David R. Jacobs Jr., of the University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway. 



 Dr. Gordon-Larsen may be contacted by email at Address correspondence to Penny Gordon-Larsen, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University Square, 123 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516-3997.

The article, “Fifteen-year longitudinal trends of walking patterns and their impact on weight change,” is available at

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact:
Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or


Gillings Admissions: 233 Rosenau Hall, (919) 445-1170
Student Affairs: 263 Rosenau Hall, (919) 966-2499
Dean's Office: 170 Rosenau Hall, (919) 966-3215
Business and Administration: 170 Rosenau Hall, (919) 966-3215
Academic Affairs: 307 Rosenau Hall, (919) 843-8044
Inclusive Excellence: 207B Rosenau Hall, (919) 966-7430
Room Reservations

135 Dauer Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7400