RALEIGH, N.C. — If you are having trouble sticking with a strenuous exercise routine, there is good news. All you have to do is take a walk to avoid packing on the pounds.
There is no magic formula for weight loss. Jeannine Cox had been dieting off and on for 35 years. The one thing that keeps Cox from gaining and keeps her sane is walking.
"The fresh air, the sky is blue. It's just nice outside," Cox said.
"I think it helps me mentally, too. It's a way of relaxing after work, but I walk mainly to keep my weight down," walker Gloria Moore said.
Federal researchers estimate more than 60 percent of Americans are overweight. On average, people gain a pound of fat per year between ages 25 and 55.
"Ultimately, the problem is caused by two things -- we eat too much and we exercise too little," Duke University researcher Cris Slentz said.
Slentz said more important than losing is learning how to maintain weight first. A new Duke study shows that just three hours of brisk walking a week can achieve the goal without dieting. The study also shows that people who do slightly more, joggers for example, have a high probability of losing at least a pound a month without dieting.
"When we lose weight, we often gain it back. Maybe this highlights the importance of maintenance even more than ever. We should fight very hard to keep from gaining weight," Slentz said.
Researchers said walkers have taken the first steps towards good health and taking a few more steps could change weight maintenance into weight loss.
"I'm not gaining, but I'm not losing either," Moore said.
"I know I need to walk a little more. I could probably work it in if I tried harder, which I'm going to do because I want to lose some more weight," Cox said.
A few years ago, there was a report that said people need one hour of exercise per day, but Duke researchers now believe that was unrealistic and unnecessary and may have kept people from starting to exercise. They suggested that for anyone with a weight problem, moderate exercise is a great place to start.