Weight Loss: Weight Watchers Vs. Fitness Centers


Weight Watchers has started a new campaign ad that says, ‘Diets Don’t Work…Weight Watchers Does.’ The experts at Green Mountain at Fox Run have been saying that since its founding in 1973, but have always stressed healthy eating along with fitness goals and mutual support. Now a new study that uses the latest technology such as the Bod Pod (photo-right) reinforces the Green Mountain philosophy.

University of Missouri researcher Steve Ball believes his study indicates that a multi-pronged approach to weight loss – diet, exercise and support – is much more likely to be effective than simply taking out a gym membership or joining Weight Watchers alone.

A Study in Body Composition

The study examined how people lose weight in the real world, comparing not only the number of pounds lost, but also the percentage of body fat. Ball used sophisticated methods, such as a ‘Bod Pod’ and CT scans to measure the body composition of Weight Watchers vs. fitness club members.

The Weight Watchers group averaged a 5% reduction in body weight (or 9 pounds) over a 12 week period, but much of that was lean tissue, not fat.

“Participants’ body fat percentage did not improve at all because they lost a much higher percentage than expected of lean tissue,” said Ball, assistant professor of exercise physiology in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. “It is advantageous to keep lean tissue because it is correlated with higher metabolism. Losing lean tissue often slows metabolism. What your body is made of is more important than what you weigh.”

The fitness center group didn’t see much of a change on the scale, but those participants did lose fat around the vital organs.  Ball says that a change in body composition, regardless of negligible weight loss, is still beneficial to overall health and an improved metabolism.

Strength in Numbers

Sticking with any new lifestyle change takes perseverance. The group support in the Weight Watchers program proved to be very effective at helping participants see the weight loss program through whereas nearly 50 percent of fitness club members quit within 6 months.

“I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach,” concludes Ball, “in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight loss programs.”


University of Missouri-Columbia. “Weight Watchers Vs. Fitness Centers.” ScienceDaily 5 July 2008. 5 July 2008 <http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/07/080702101351.htm>.

2 responses to “Weight Loss: Weight Watchers Vs. Fitness Centers”

  1. Fastatic article. I think it really highlights the importance of exercise/weights alongside healthy eating. I would lose to see what Weight Watchers say about now reducing body fat %

  2. I really enjoyed your article and I agree with the multi pronged approach to weight loss. People who want to lose weight seriously should start and build up to a regime that works for them including healthy eating and exercise

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