INDIANA U. (US)—The benefits of exercise are no surprise. The fact that exercise is more beneficial for some more than others may be. A new study finds that when it comes to working out, white women are the big winners.

In a study involving more than 12,000 people in a nationally representative sample of U.S. 20- to 64-year-olds, Dong-Chul Seo, associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation at Indiana University, found that obesity rates in general declined as the amount of weekly leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) increased.

White women, however, saw the steepest decreases, particularly when meeting minimum national guidelines for weekly physical activity. This was not always the case for men and for women who were African American or Hispanic.

“For the majority of health professionals, even health researchers, they say the more leisure-time physical activity you engage in, the less likely you’ll get obese,” says Seo. “This is true, but it’s probably only applicable to white women and some of the white men.”

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, is the first study that shows population-based evidence of a graded dose response relationship between the total volume of LTPA and obesity.

Job-related physical activity might have influenced obesity rates, Seo says. Studies have found, for example, that men and Hispanic women are more likely to have manually demanding jobs than white women, which could affect the amount of LTPA they accumulate.

For Hispanic women, their obesity rates dropped as their amount of occupational physical activity (OPA) increased. However, a different pattern was seen for men.

“This illustrates to me the importance of physical activity in the workplace,” Seo says. “Workplace wellness programs should really be emphasized, especially for people who do sedentary work.

“To enhance their health, maybe employers could offer workout spaces and incentives to do physical activity during the work hours or right after. They can make it easier.”

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