The Weight Watchers program is popular in part due to its simplicity. Instead of counting calories, members count points, a number calculated through a formula of calories, fat and fiber grams in any given food. Members get a certain number of points each week based on several factors such as height, weight and sex. Members also get 35 additional weekly points to use as they choose. But perhaps the concept that gives the program its greatest flexibility is the activity points, or APs.
What They Are
Activity points are earned by--you guessed it--doing activity. Each activity earns a certain number of points, calculated for each individual based on body weight, length of time spent doing the activity and perceived exertion. For example, a 193-lb. woman following the American College of Sports Medicine's guideline of 30 minutes of moderate cardio five days a week would earn 10 activity points a week--two points for each 30-minute session.
How They're Calculated
The Weight Watchers online calculator allows you to plug in your weight, minutes of exercise, and low-, moderate- or high-level activity to come up with the APs for an activity. But it also includes a large database of activates, into which members can plug in anything from “elliptical cross-trainer” to “walking the dog” and get the number of activity points for the specific activity.
How to Use Them
Activity points are added on top of the daily points and the 35 weekly points. Activity points are the last batch of points you’ll dip into. If, for example, your daily goal is 24 points, you earn four APs, and you eat 62 points one day (it can be done) you’ll first use up your 24 daily points and then your 35 weekly points before dipping into three of your activity points.
Why Use Them
Activity points shouldn’t be used simply so you can eat that extra slice of pecan pie every day. While they certainly can be used, on special occasions, to allow for extra food intake, for the most part activity points are there to encourage members to get moving. Any movement is good movement, according to Weight Watchers, and members are encouraged to build up their activity levels over the course of the program. And, if you want a little extra weight loss boost, the program materials say, don’t use the activity points you earn. This is a concept, of course, that should be used in moderation--running a marathon and not using any APs could be dangerous.
Evolution of Activity Points
The use of activity points has changed over the years as Weight Watchers has adjusted and revised its program. At one point you could earn as many points as you wanted but only use four each day. Another plan allowed you to use as many as you earned, but only the day you earned them. The current plan, which allows you to save up as many points as you earn throughout the week is certainly the most flexible, yet fits in with the Weight Watchers' goal of encouraging its members to be active.