Sudden Unexpected Call Syndrome

Picture this… it’s 6:42 this morning, my cat is snuggled in my lap, my coffee is delicious, the music is wonderful. And then… I looked at my calendar.

Really? 

I’M ON CALL?

Between call and business travel this is the first weekend in 5 weeks I’ve been home.  I was totally psyched for a weekend off and then…

If you are in medicine, you will immediately recognize that this is an important syndrome which, up to now, has gone unnamed.  If you aren’t in medicine it’s important to know what happens next.  When a physician, nurse or other provider suffers from SUCS, it only takes 10-15 minutes to have the paradigm shift of “Oh, well….. “ and then move on to how you are going to take care of others.  (Trainees – when, not if, this happens to you, the worst thing you can do is turn this into a chronic condition by letting this torture you during your call day.)

I took a deep breath, reorganized my thoughts and my emotions.  I went from my hierarchy of needs for the weekend to the well recognized hierarchy of needs for being on call.

Photo credit

 Then I texted my fellow.

And she responded….

On to the rest of the day, including my Saturday tradition of going to the farmer’s market!

As I was at the farmer’s market, looking at all the wonderful produce, having breakfast and soaking in the sun, I pondered my rapid recovery from SUCS.

And then I had a thought I will pose to my readers…. what should we call the opposite syndrome?  You know, the one when you get to the hospital and realize you made a mistake and you aren’t on call?

Dancing Doctor Video

p.s. It turned out my call yesterday was listed as an “all day” event for two days on Outlook.  Whew!

Top 10 ways to survive (and maybe even enjoy) being on call

Like our residents (but not nearly as frequently), my group has started taking “in house” call.   For every one who is currently or has been a resident, this is an experience we all know…. and one that’s hard to describe to those that haven’t experienced it.   Spending 24 hours on call in the hospital can be emotionally and physically draining, but it has moments that make it a special experience, too.

There are ways to make the experience easier.  Here are my top 10 ways to survive (and maybe even enjoy) being on call:

1. Drink water. Put a water bottle in the lounge refrigerator, drink from every water fountain, put your water bottle next to your computer, or come up with other ways to stay hydrated. If you want more flavor, bring a zip-lock with cut up lemons or limes to put in your water or add a splash of fruit juice.

2. Be kind. No matter how stressed or busy you are, knock on every patient’s door and enter their room with the intention to help. Sit down or put a hand on their arm when you are talking to them. Smile.

3. Take breaks. On purpose. No one really expects you to work non-stop for 24 hours and it’s not good for your patients. Deliberately stop to do something else every few hours, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Go outside for a few minutes for a short walk to catch some natural light and breathe some fresh air. Get a good cup of coffee or tea, listen to some music or just sit. If you want something more active, climb a few flights of stairs, stretch, or even do a light workout.

4. Eat well and eat often. Do not rely on fast food or the hospital cafeteria. By far the best plan is to bring really good food from home. You need to have “comfort” food on call. If you don’t cook, buy really good prepared food that you can look forward to. Make sure you have “plan B” ready if your call day gets completely out of control by having an energy bar (my favorite is Kind bars), peanut butter sandwich or other “quick” food in your white coat pocket.

5. Be part of the team. Notice and encourage the unique camaraderie you share with everyone else who is on call. It’s a small “band of brothers” who find themselves in the hospital at 3am. Be kind to each other, help each other, and use this unique opportunity to get to know someone you might otherwise not get to know.

6. Wear good shoes. If you are in house for 24 hours, bring a second pair that’s completely different (clogs and running shoes for example). Ditto socks. Buy really good socks and change them after 12 hours if you can.

7. Use caffeine wisely. It’s practically essential for many of us at the beginning of the day, but beware trying to “wake up” with caffeine after 2pm.   Not to mention that if you “caffeinate” all night, you’ll have that sickly post-call-too-much-caffeine feeling in the morning.

8. Take naps. Any sleep is good sleep on call. If it’s possible, 20 minutes will make you more alert and effective in your work.

9. Make your beeper a “Zen bell”. Use your pager or phone as a tool for mindfulness. When it goes off, take a deep breath, relax the muscles in your face and shoulders and be present.  This is a proven practice to decrease stress – try it, it works!

10. Learn. Take advantage of the unique educational opportunity of being on call. The fact that there are fewer people around at night and on the weekends has a real impact on how and what you learn on call.   If you are a student or junior resident, you are more likely to be the first person evaluating new consults and admissions. You are also more likely to have one on one time with your senior resident or faculty as you care for patients together.  If you are further along in your training,  the “down time” on call (if there is any!) is a great time to catch up on reading.

 

 

Fast Food for Call Nights

It’s 2am on call.  All of a sudden you are starving, not to mention craving comfort food.  The only thing available is MacDonald’s or (on rare occasions) the leftover pizza from the noon conference.  It’s a problem.  Eating that kind of food at 2am will almost certainly result in food coma, not to mention that you really know it’s not healithy or what you would recommend for your patients.

Here’s the answer.

These tacos are a great breakfast on the run, afternoon snack or 2am call food.  It takes ~15 minutes to make 10 of them on the weekend – which is enough to last for several weeks.

Start by chopping up the veggies you want to put in the tacos.  My “go to” is one red bell pepper and a poblano pepper.  Corn and rice work well, too.  You can change the taste by using different cheese and different veggies (brocolli, carrots etc with Monterey Jack, for example).

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Buy the cheese you want already shredded.  Lowfat Mexican is my usual choice, but any cheese is fine.  I’ll often cut up a block of 50% Cabot cheddar cheese which is a great tasting low calorie cheese.

Put 10 whole wheat tortillas on the counter and divide one can of refried beans between them.  Use nonfat if you are watching calories.  Black beans, pinto beans, spicy or not – your choice!

Divide up your veggies and cheese onto the 10 tacos.

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Roll them up and put them in snack size plastic bags.

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Put the little bags in a gallon freezer bag (important to prevent the bad taste of freezer burn) and put them in the freezer.  They last for weeks.

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Two minutes in the microwave directly from the freezer gives you a great breakfast, snack, or middle of the night comfort food!

Cold Summer Treats

It’s summer and it’s hot.  I’m on call this weekend.  That combination made me think about cold comfort food I could take to work.

Chocolate (in any form) is always the answer… but I decided maybe I could find something a little more healthy (and a little less caloric) that could serve as the “treat” we all crave when we are working hard on call.  I’m thinking the team will like a little Salpicon mid afternoon tomorrow…

Salpicon – a sparkling fruit drink from Columbia

This soup looks delicious, but with the heavy cream probably isn’t in the “low calorie” list.  You can substitute milk or yogurt to cut calories (without too much sacrifice of taste).  But, then again, as an on-call treat this still beats McDonald’s!  This is just one example of cold soups – which are great for summer on-call days.

Cold avocado soup

Smoothies are great comfort food – but logistically not easy when you are on call.  If you love smoothies, you might want to invest in an inexpensive single-serve blender.  Take the fruit in a baggie, put some yogurt and ice cubes in… instant smoothie.  Alternatively, you can blend your smoothie at home and put it in a container in the refrigerator that you can shake up before drinking.

smoothie

Banana mango smoothie

February’s Healthy Habit: Get Moving!

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to come up with monthly “resolutions” for myself and for anyone who follows this blog.  Cooking Light magazine (which is one of my favorite sources of recipes and ideas for healthy living) had the same idea, so I am shamelessly borrowing their healthy habits!

Cooking Light’s 12 Healthy Habits

It’s a lot easier to commit to 30 days of a new habit than a full year.  So this month’s goal is to maintain or improve fitness by increasing activity.

It may seem daunting to stay in shape or even improve your fitness level when you are swamped with studying or work in the hospital.  It’s not easy, but it is absolutely doable.  The best way to start is to pick one or two of the following ideas and make them a resolution for this month.  Pick goals that are “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) and then just do it! Consistency is the most important part of setting this goal – so pick something that you know you can do on a regular basis.

Some ideas to consider:

  • Take the stairs at work instead of the elevator
  • Commute to school or the hospital on your feet or on a bicycle
  • Park as far away from school or work as is reasonable and walk the rest of the way
  • Plan ahead for 10 minutes of exercise while you are on call and take what you need
  • Wear a pedometer and get 10,000 steps/day
  • Do push-ups every morning before you go to work
  • Find a cardio exercise that isn’t boring for you and do it 30 minutes 3x/week
  • Run.  It’s easy, it’s cheap and it’s the most effective exercise for busy people!
  • Hire a trainer for one workout a week (or ask for this as a present)
  • Play golf, tennis, racquetball – any game that gets you moving!
  • Find a spin class or other organized exercise class to attend once a week
  • Organize a basketball or ultimate Frisbee game with your friends once a week
  • Shoot for a total minute goal/week of exercise (start with 100?) and keep track
  • Whatever you decide to do, PLAN – make it an appointment on your calendar, put it on your daily scut list, get your clothes out the night before – do whatever it takes to make it happen!

Tour de France Rice Cakes

I’m addicted to watching the Tour de France.  It’s an amazing athletic event, and the images (at least on HD) are simple astonishing.

There was a really great “side story” on tonight’s Tour broadcast about Dr. Allen Lim, a PhD sports physiologist.  The segment was specifically about his rice cakes – a real food equivalent of a commercial energy bar used by the Radio Shack riders.   http://dailyburn.com/recipes/dr_allen_lim_rice_cakes.

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I haven’t made these yet, but I’m pretty certain they are going to be really good and – more importantly – a great call/energy food for busy students and residents.  He has some other recipes that would probably be good on call energy food, too

Here’s a video on how to make these rice cakes.   http://www.cycle-ops.com/videos.html?id=50

Photo from http://bikefleet.blogspot.com/2009/03/allen-lims-rice-cakes.html

Healthy Sandwiches

Making a healthy sandwich for lunch is a great way to insure that you don’t eat the leftover pizza from last night’s call team.  A really good sandwich which balances protein and carbs is also a great way to get through a long call night.  Keeping your energy up when you are up all night on call is difficult but there are tricks to maintain energy for call. The most important way to have good energy on call is to eat good quality food every 3-4 hours. Sandwiches are great for call because they are so easy to make, easy to store and easy to put in a pocket to eat on the go.

Pick good ingredients whenever you can.  It’s worth paying a little more to have food that is just food (and not a lot of fillers, corn syrup, transfats, etc).  Make sure you get high quality bread – 100% whole wheat is best, but if you really don’t like whole wheat, at least try to get as much whole grain in the bread as you can. Whenever possible, add veggies to add nutritional value.

Peanut butter sandwiches have the advantage of not needing refrigeration.  You can keep them in your white coat pocket if you want to (an advantage on a busy day).  You can stay traditional (i.e. peanut butter and jelly), or up the nutritional content by adding banana (or other fruit) or with unusual combinations http://www.epicurean.com/articles/beyond-jelly-reinventing-the-peanut-butter-sandwich.html

Egg salad sandwiches are great in the middle of the night when you are on call.  101cookbooks.com egg salad recipe is a pretty classic recipe which is really wonderful.  If you want to up the protein and decrease the fat try the  Eat Clean Diet egg salad recipe. There are other sites that give you other options for traditional egg salad recipes.

Tuna or chicken salad sandwiches can be made with classic recipes, or less traditional ingredients that up the nutritional content such as spicy tuna salad, or other unique tuna salad recipes.

Lean meat (chicken, ham, pork, beef) makes a great, high protein sandwich.  Add cheese, tomatoes, spinach, shredded carrots or other veggies to increase the nutritional value.  If you are watching your weight use low-fat cheese and avoid mayonnaise.  If you use hummus or avocado instead of mayonnaise or other spreads you’ll also make the sandwich more nutritious.

Here are a few other sites to help you be creative with your sandwich ideas:

Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly: Healthy Sandwich Choices for Everyone

Healthy Sandwich Recipes & Tips

Love Your Lunch: 10 Healthy Sandwich Recipes

Healthy Sandwich Ideas

Good Nutrition is in the Bag: Healthy Sandwich Alternatives

You Can Exercise Even if You are on Call

One of the great fallacies about working out is that you need to “go somewhere” to work out.  This idea that working out is separate from the rest of your life is the main reason people don’t work out.  Be creative – there are lots of ways to work out that don’t require much and can be done in the hospital.  There are days on call and then there are days on call (everyone who has done it knows what I am talking about).  On the days that have a little “breathing room” here are some ways to work out while you are at work.

Cardio options

  1. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  There are good data that 3 sessions of 10 minutes of cardio has the same result as a 30 minute cardio session.  Those 2-3 minute “sessions” of going from floor to floor will add up to 20-30 minutes easily by the end of the day.  Or, if you want to push it a bit, add a few flights (or minutes) here and there.  You can always find 10 minutes (or 20, if the day permits) and really climb the stairs.
  2. Take a jump rope to the hospital and keep it in the call room
  3. Find out if there is a stress test lab or PT area in the hospital that has stationary bikes or treadmills that you can use.
  4. Go for a walk.  If it’s safe, and your beeper and cell phone permit, walk outside the hospital.  If not, do “power rounds” on the floors for exercise (do the circuit of each floor, climb the stairs to the next floor and continue).
  5. Talk your program into paying for a used bike or treadmill.
  6. Commute to work on your feet or on a bicycle (more on that later…)

Strength training options

  1. Buy a set of stretch bands or inflatable (with water) dumbbells and throw them into your on-call bag.  You can get a good strength training workout with these.
  2. Cheap dumbbells are easy to find.  For $20-30, you can put a pair or two  in the call room or resident lounge.  See if there are other residents that want to go in with you to buy a complete set.  Of course, you will have to find a way to lock them up if, like most hospitals, things have a habit of walking away.
  3. Old fashion calesthenics (push-ups, squats, etc) will provide a good strength workout , too. You might consider one of the many popular DVD based programs that are making the rounds (no pun intended) at the moment.

Flexibility training

Stretching can be done anywhere, anytime.  Like weight training, there are some good tips that can be taught by a pro.  Make sure if you hire a personal trainer that you ask them to give you some tips about stretching, too.  There are also excellent books on stretching.  You might think about web based or DVD yoga sessions as another alternative.

The key concept here is that working out during call is doable – and will often help with fatigue, stress and the feeling of being overworked.  These “workouts” don’t have to be long – even 10 minutes will help.

Cooking for Yourself in Medical School and Residency

Most medical students and residents eat poorly.  It’s not really a surprise – the days are packed with work from sun-up to sun-down.  There are no planned meals because there can’t be.  Food is a quick bite when it is available.  It’s feast or famine.  On the far end of the scale, the stereotypical diet of a resident is no breakfast (but usually coffee), a doughnut and coffee grabbed on the run once you get to work, some mid-day meal of fast food, and pizza on call.  Food, particularly fast food, becomes solace.  In the stressful world of residency, this kind of “comfort food” becomes a “reward” for the hard work and tribulations. It’s not rocket science.  This kind of diet doesn’t give you the energy you need to function at your peak.  It is also a diet that is very likely to lead to weight gain.  In your 20s, your body can cope with this suboptimal fuel, but it’s not ideal.  However, what “works” in your 20s won’t work as you get older and could even be responsible for a heart attack, diabetes, or other medical problems in your 40s and 50s.  On a more philosophical level, you would never advise this kind of diet to one of your patients.  None of us want to be hypocrites.

The answer is to cook for yourself.  Not everyone likes to cook, and not every one knows how.   I’m going to make a case that you should learn.  Trust me – if you can learn to take out an appendix, or diagnose a pneumonia, you can learn to cook.   I’m going to assume that you are single for the sake of this description.  But, if you have a significant other, it’s even more important to cook at home.  He or she can participate in helping with the meal preparation, and, by doing this together and for each other, there is added benefit for your relationship.  Having dinner at home with a significant other will become an “anchor” to your day that will become very important to you.  As hard as it is to work around a busy schedule, if you can eat together, and have a real conversation, you will both benefit greatly.

Cooking is a wonderful therapy for the stress of medical school and residency.  If you’ve never learned how to cook, this is a hard time to learn complicated techniques, but it’s not hard to learn simple techniques.  There are several advantages of cooking for yourself that outweigh (on most days) the hassle of spending the time.  The act of cooking for yourself can be a time of “decompressing” from work.  Arranging vegetables, cutting them, smelling the odor of the food appeals to all your senses and is a moment in the day that you can intentionally slow down.  It’s very important that the recipes you choose are simple and quickly prepared.  No one wants to come home to a 2 hour task in the kitchen after a hard day.  Cooking for yourself has other benefits as well.  First, it is tangible evidence that you are taking care of yourself.  This is not a trivial point.  There are days during your training when it seems no one is taking care of you.  Having concrete evidence that you are caring for yourself is an antidote to that feeling.  Secondly, you will eat better.  By cooking from fresh ingredients, you will decrease the amount of pre-packaged and fast food.  Even without medical school, you know that this will result in better nutrition.  Thirdly, you will eat cheaper.  Other than the “free” pizza (ethically debatable, but financially clear), processed food is usually more expensive.  And lastly, you can share.  It isn’t any more work to make 4 or 6 portions of a dish than it is to make 2, and it usually isn’t that much more expensive, either.  If you can convince one of your colleagues that this is a good idea, you can cook for each other on alternate days.   Likewise, you can cook larger amounts and, using freezer ready containers, freeze portions for yourself for the future.  Doesn’t homemade pasta with a side of fresh vegetables really sound better than the greasy middle of the night food that is available in most hospitals?   It’s true that you can’t cook just anything with the kind of schedule you will have in medical school and your residency.  But, there are few key rules that will make it possible for you to do this, enjoy it, and eat well.

Rule 1:  Don’t cook anything that takes more than 30 minutes to prepare.

Let’s be realistic – you are not going to walk into your home at 8 o’clock at night, hungry, and spend an hour preparing something.  But – there are very nutritious dinners that take less than 10 minutes, so getting home late is no excuse.

Rule 2:  Plan ahead.

The first step in preparing dinner for most busy people is to open the refrigerator door and ask “What can I eat tonight?:  If you are anything like I was in residency, the refrigerator had some cheese, some vegetables (often way past their prime), and maybe some leftovers.  Not very appetizing.  There is an easy way to prevent this from happening.  On whatever day you have off and have time to shop, spend 30 minutes making a menu.  Start by making a table for the week with what is happening.

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner Comments
Sun
Mon On call – take Tues meals, too
Tues
Wed Out Out with friends after rounds
Thur
Fri On call
Sat

Once you have an outline of your week, fill in the blanks with the meals.  Now, most of us can handle “hamburgers” or “Raisin Bran” as a menu item… but it’s more fun, and healthier to branch out a bit.  So, if you are not used to looking for new things to cook, how do you find recipes?  Cookbooks can be fun, particularly if you are looking for a particular ethnic food or a style (e.g. low-fat) of cooking.  If you like cookbooks, and bookstores, find the used book store nearest you and go to town!  There are also web sites for recipes.  Many of them also have “cooking lessons” on line.  Most cooking shows have a web based recipe site as well.   So, say you start by searching the web and find this recipe. (for this particular recipe, I’m assuming you have no concerns about calories)  It looks easy, and like it would taste good.   So you print it out.

NEW ORLEANS PASTA

ESSENCE OF EMERIL (FOODTV)   SHOW #EE123 – http://www.recipesource.com/main-dishes/pasta/11/rec1100.html

1 tablespoon olive oil

16 ounces chicken breast half, cut into strips (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup chopped chorizo sausage

2 tablespoons chopped green onions, plus extra for garnish

1/2 tablespoon chopped garlic

Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente and tossed in oil to coat

Creole spice, salt and pepper

In a large saute pan heat oil, add chicken and sausage and cook 5 minutes, stirring often. Add green onions, garlic, 2 dashes each Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce or to taste, and cook for 1 minute. Add cream, cheese, shrimp and pasta. Cook, tossing, to heat through. Adjust seasoning to taste with Creole spice, salt and pepper. Serve garnished with green onions.

Yield: 2 servings

Now what?  First, cut and paste the ingredient list to a shopping list.  If you are compulsive, you can organize it into meat, dairy, produce, etc (it makes shopping easier, but it’s not essential).  You’ll need to add a vegetable or salad to balance this out nutritionally. (I picked broccoli as an example) If you can afford the calories, add a desert. (Ice cream in this case)  Then decide what night in your schedule this will work best.  This recipe will take about 12 minutes total so it would be great for a night you are getting home late.  You can either share the other portion with your significant other or you can take it with you the next day as lunch.  You can double the recipe and have it more than one night.   For example:

Breakfast Lunch Snack Dinner Comments
Sun
Mon On call – take Tues meals, too
Tues
Wed Out Out with friends after roundsThaw shrimp for tomorrow
Thur NEW ORLEANS PASTA (CHICKEN, CHORIZO)Steamed broccoliIce Cream Freeze one portion for later
Fri NEW ORLEANS PASTA (CHICKEN, CHORIZO)Steamed broccoli On call
Sat NEW NEW ORLEANS PASTA (CHICKEN, CHORIZO)Steamed broccoli

Shopping list:

2 lbs chicken breast (16 oz x 2)

1/2 cup chopped chorizo sausage

1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

heavy cream   (need 1 1/5  cup)

Parmesan cheese  (need 1/2 cup grated)

Olive oil

Creole spice

green onions

garlic

broccoli (4 portions to steam)

One pound penne pasta

Ice cream

Rule 3:  Cook (or prep) today today to eat tomorrow

As soon as you get home from the grocery store:

  • Freeze any meat that is for later in the week (and make a note to yourself to put in into the refrigerator to thaw a day or two before you are going to use it.)
  • Wash the vegetables, dry them and put them away
  • Wash lettuce for salads and dry completely (a spin dryer is the best).  Store in a zip lock plastic bag with a paper towel in the bag (which absorbs any residual water).  Make sure you squeeze out all the air you can before closing the bag.

Take advantage of days off to cook things that may take a little more time or effort.  While  you are watch the football game on Sunday, you can cook chili in a crock pot for Wednesday.  If you know that your vegetable stir fry on Tuesday is going to be after a long day, go ahead and chop all the vegetables and meat a day or two before when you have the time and have them stored in the refrigerator.   When Tuesday rolls around (and you are exhausted from work), you’ll have all the ingredients chopped and ready to throw in the pan.

Preventing Weight Gain in Residency

This is the time of year when 4th year medical students are winding down and preparing for the “big move” into internship.  Our 4th year students take a special 3 week course to get them ready – a wonderful mix of small groups on professionalism, ACLS training, first night on call beeper emergencies…etc, etc.  It ends with a small group of senior faculty who talk about making the transition to residency.  I wish we’d recorded the talks – they were all really wonderful.  In addition to giving wonderful professional advice,  all of the faculty included advice on taking care of yourself.  It struck me that one of the specific issues that each of them mentioned (well, four out of five) was how much weight they had gained in their internship and residency.

Losing weight is not easy for those that struggle with this issue – but preventing weight gain is not as hard – and should be a goal for every intern and resident!   It’s not hard – you need to increase your activity (a little) and watch out for stupid food choices.   Here’s the “rules” I wish someone had given me before I started my residency (if you have rules you would add, please send a comment!)

1.  No junk food (doughnuts, pizza, hamburgers, etc)

2.  Take healthy food with you to work – especially for call nights.  Keep emergency healthy food in your locker i.e. high quality energy bars, dried fruit/nuts (in appropriate small portions).

3.  Make sure you get an hour of real exercise on days when you are not in the hospital

4.  Take the stairs instead of the elevators.

JAMA. 2010 Mar 24;303(12):1173-9.

Physical activity and weight gain prevention.

Lee IM, Djoussé L, Sesso HD, Wang L, Buring JE.

Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA. ilee@rics.bwh.harvard.edu

CONTEXT: The amount of physical activity needed to prevent long-term weight gain is unclear. In 2008, federal guidelines recommended at least 150 minutes per week (7.5 metabolic equivalent [MET] hours per week) of moderate-intensity activity for “substantial health benefits.”

OBJECTIVE: To examine the association of different amounts of physical activity with long-term weight changes among women consuming a usual diet.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A prospective cohort study involving 34,079 healthy US women (mean age, 54.2 years) from 1992-2007. At baseline and months 36, 72, 96, 120, 144, and 156, women reported their physical activity and body weight. Women were classified as expending less than 7.5, 7.5 to less than 21, and 21 or more MET hours per week of activity at each time. Repeated-measures regression prospectively examined physical activity and weight change over intervals averaging 3 years.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Change in weight.

RESULTS: Women gained a mean of 2.6 kg throughout the study. A multivariate analysis comparing women expending 21 or more MET hours per week with those expending from 7.5 to less than 21 MET hours per week showed that the latter group gained a mean (SD) 0.11 kg (0.04 kg; P = .003) over a mean interval of 3 years, and those expending less than 7.5 MET hours per week gained 0.12 kg (0.04; P = .002). There was a significant interaction with body mass index (BMI), such that there was an inverse dose-response relation between activity levels and weight gain among women with a BMI of less than 25 (P for trend < .001) but no relation among women with a BMI from 25 to 29.9 (P for trend = .56) or with a BMI of 30.0 or higher (P for trend = .50). A total of 4540 women (13.3%) with a BMI lower than 25 at study start successfully maintained their weight by gaining less than 2.3 kg throughout. Their mean activity level over the study was 21.5 MET hours per week (approximately 60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity).

CONCLUSIONS: Among women consuming a usual diet, physical activity was associated with less weight gain only among women whose BMI was lower than 25. Women successful in maintaining normal weight and gaining fewer than 2.3 kg over 13 years averaged approximately 60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity throughout the study.

PMID: 20332403 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]