Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsm.2009.065557
  • Original article

Beneficial effects of exercise: shifting the focus from body weight to other markers of health

  1. Neil King1,*,
  2. Mark Hopkins2,
  3. Phillipa Caudwell3,
  4. James Stubbs4,
  5. John Blundell3
  1. 1 QUT, Australia;
  2. 2 Trinitu All Saints, United Kingdom;
  3. 3 University of Leeds, United Kingdom;
  4. 4 Slimming World, United Kingdom
  1. Correspondence to: neil king, Queensland University of Technology, IHBI, MUsk Av, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, 4059, Australia; n.king{at}
  • Received 13 August 2009
  • Accepted 24 August 2009
  • Published Online First 29 September 2009


Background: Exercise is widely promoted as a method of weight management, whilst 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 ±4.5kg/m2) participated in a 12 week supervised aerobic exercise intervention (70% heart rate max, 5 times a week, 500kcal per session). Body composition, anthropometric parameters, aerobic capacity, blood pressure and acute psychological response to exercise were measured at weeks 0 and 12.

Results: Mean reduction in body weight was -3.3 ±3.63kg (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 ±1.8kg (P<0.01). Despite attaining lower than predicted weight reduction, these individuals experienced significant increases in aerobic capacity (6.3 ±; P<0.01), decreased systolic (-6.00 ±11.5mmHg; P<0.05) and diastolic blood pressure (-3.9 ±5.8mmHg; P<0.01), waist circumference (-3.7 ±2.7cm; P<0.01) and resting heart rate (-4.8±8.9bpm, 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. 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.


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