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Gender-Based Weight Loss Programs Best For Men?

Sports fans enjoy watching their favorite teams go head-to-head in physical competition. But many male spectators are reluctant to take their own measures to get fit. Researchers suggest that a more male-friendly approach could increase participation.

Funded by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme, Football Fans in Training (FFIT) was created for male Scottish Premier League football (soccer) fans. “FFIT, a men-only weight management programme delivered to groups of men at top professional football clubs, encourages men to lose weight by working with, not against, cultural ideals of masculinity,” the researchers explained.

To determine the program’s efficacy, they studied 747 overweight male participants, aged 35–65, for 12 months. More than 90% of the men were considered at high risk for future health problems. “Around three-quarters of participants in all age groups were at ‘very high’ risk of type 2 diabetes, hyper- tension and cardiovascular disease,” reported the authors.

Study subjects were separated into a 12-week weight loss group and a control group. In those 12 weeks, men in the intervention group lost nine times more weight than those in the control group. At the 12-month mark, nearly 40% of weight loss participants still weighed at least 5% less than they did at baseline.

The researchers believed that the program was successful largely because it was specifically oriented to men.

“Qualitative data revealed that the powerful ‘draw’ of the football club attracted men otherwise reluctant to attend existing weight management programmes,” they explained. “The location and style of delivery of early FFIT sessions fostered team spirit; men appreciated being with others ‘like them’ and the opportunity to undertake weight management in circumstances that enhanced physical and symbolic proximity to something they valued highly, the football club.”

The research appeared in The Lancet (2014; doi:10.101 6/S01406736(13)62420-4) and BMC Public Health (2014; doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-50).

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