Beneficial effects of exercise: shifting the focus from body weight to other markers of health
- 1Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, School of Human Movement Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
- 2Department of Health and Exercise Science, Trinity and All Saints College, Leeds, UK
- 3Biopsychology Group, Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
- 4Slimming World, Clover Nook Road, Somercotes, Alfreton, UK
- Correspondence to Dr N King, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, School of Human Movement Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, 4059, QLD, Australia;
- Accepted 24 August 2009
- Published Online First 29 September 2009
Background: Exercise is widely promoted as a method of weight management, while the other health benefits are often ignored. The purpose of this study was to examine whether exercise-induced improvements in health are influenced by changes in body weight.
Methods: Fifty-eight sedentary overweight/obese men and women (BMI 31.8 (SD 4.5) kg/m2) participated in a 12-week supervised aerobic exercise intervention (70% heart rate max, five times a week, 500 kcal per session). Body composition, anthropometric parameters, aerobic capacity, blood pressure and acute psychological response to exercise were measured at weeks 0 and 12.
Results: The mean reduction in body weight was −3.3 (3.63) kg (p<0.01). However, 26 of the 58 participants failed to attain the predicted weight loss estimated from individuals’ exercise-induced energy expenditure. Their mean weight loss was only −0.9 (1.8) kg (p<0.01). Despite attaining a lower-than-predicted weight reduction, these individuals experienced significant increases in aerobic capacity (6.3 (6.0) ml/kg/min; p<0.01), and a decreased systolic (−6.00 (11.5) mm Hg; p<0.05) and diastolic blood pressure (−3.9 (5.8) mm Hg; p<0.01), waist circumference (−3.7 (2.7) cm; p<0.01) and resting heart rate (−4.8 (8.9) bpm, p<0.001). In addition, these individuals experienced an acute exercise-induced increase in positive mood.
Conclusions: These data demonstrate that significant and meaningful health benefits can be achieved even in the presence of lower-than-expected exercise-induced weight loss. A less successful reduction in body weight does not undermine the beneficial effects of aerobic exercise. From a public health perspective, exercise should be encouraged and the emphasis on weight loss reduced.
Parts of these data were presented at BASES in UK, 2006, and at the 9th ICO in Australia, 2006.
Funding This study forms part of a larger project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBS/B/05079).
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by University of Leeds Ethics Committtee.
Patient consent Obtained.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.