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Background Individual counseling demands considerable resources whereas a group intervention will lower the costs in relation to lifestyle changes on physical activity and dietary habits. The aim of this study was to examine the short- and long-term effect of group counseling compared to individual counseling on physical activity and dietary habits in moderately overweight hospital employees with a Body Mass Index between 25.0 and 30.0.
Methods A randomized controlled trial, allocating participants to individual or group-based counseling based on a behavioural change approach, which consisted of five meetings during the first three months and one follow-up meeting respectively after 6 and 12 months. Assessment of physical activity was obtained using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire. Data on diets were obtained by a three-day self-administered dietary record. Additional measurements were Body Mass Index, fat percentage, waist circumference and fitness rating. Assessments were at 3, 6 and 12 months.
Results 120 employees, consisting of 105 women and 15 men aged between 25 and 66 years were consecutively included. No statistically significant differences were seen between the groups in relation to physical activity level, total fruit and vegetable intake or fat energy percentage at any time. Statistically significant differences were seen within the groups, especially at the 3-month follow-up. No significant differences between the groups were seen in relation to BMI, fat percentage, waist circumference and fitness rating.
Conclusion Based on resource calculations more people can be offered counseling by group intervention provided that the general problems concerning long-term compliance are solved. From a public health point of view maintenance of physical activity and weight stabilization are important effect outcomes.