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  • Publication # 14-RA004

Personalized diet and physical activity counseling plus environmental changes is key to preventing weight gain


Preventing obesity involves a variety of interventions, ideally in environments where they can be effective. Workplaces and colleges are two settings where some of these interventions are carried out. 

A recent review of studies found moderate strength of evidence that interventions in these locations can prevent weight gain over a 12-month period. Critical to the success of these interventions is the inclusion of personalized diet and physical activity counseling, as well as modifications to the physical environment that support and promote these healthy lifestyle changes. 

Photograph shows a man jogging. The review included 7 workplace and 2 college-based studies. The studies used combinations of strategies: self-management, diet, physical activity, and environmental changes, and measured their influence on weight, body mass index (BMI), or waist circumference after 12 months or more. Workplaces included locations such as the military, a chemical company, and hospitals. The two college-based interventions were evaluated by randomized trials at different universities. 

All of the interventions studied used a combination of strategies and ranged from 3 to 24 months. The chemical company intervention compared site-specific environmental changes designed to promote healthy eating and physical activity with a health promotion program already in place. The hospital study evaluated a combined individual and environmental program that included promotional materials, group events, and individual education. At the universities, one study evaluated a small-group intervention while the other evaluated a 4-month college course covering nutritional science, exercise, physiology, and metabolism. 

Overall, the combination interventions prevented a weight gain of 0.5 kg or more over 12 months. However, the programs' effect on preventing BMI gainor increases in waist circumference was inconsistent. Several strategies were identified that led to a statistically significant difference in preventing weight gain. One of these was a workplace program that combined diet, physical activity, and environmental components. Another one used an Internet-based diet and exercise counseling program at work. The seminar-based self-management, diet, and physical activity counseling program for college students also proved successful at preventing weight gain. The study was supported by AHRQ (Contract No. 290-07-10061). 

See "Strategies to prevent weight gain in the workplace and college settings: A systematic review," by Kimberly Gudzune, M.D., M.P.H., Susan Hutfless, Ph.D., Nisa Maruthur, M.D., M.H.S., and others in the March 22, 2013, Preventive Medicine 57(4), pp. 268-277.


Page last reviewed February 2014
Internet Citation: Personalized diet and physical activity counseling plus environmental changes is key to preventing weight gain: Prevention. February 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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