It’s not just the diet exercise aids in decreasing obesity

It’s a well-known fact that childhood obesity is on the rise globally and along with it comes an increased risk of disease in this population, among them cardiovascular and
metabolic. There are a lot of polarized opinions on how to tackle the issue.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that you cannot outrun a bad diet? Though this is in principle true, such a standpoint can draw focus off of the positive effects that exercise can have in treatment of obesity. So how does exercise actually affect obesity?

A recent meta-analysis set out to evaluate the effects of exercise intervention on body composition and metabolic risk factors among overweight/obese adolescents. Only randomized controlled trials were included, but due to the lack of standardized methods in studies on these topics, the variation in results is relatively high.

As an example, the exercise intervention duration in the included studies varied from 8 to 36 weeks. Likely because of this, the meta-analysis found high variability in effects on cardiometabolic outcomes, though the overall effect was positive on e.g. insulin sensitivity and blood pressure. Additionally, exercise intervention among overweight/obese children lead to significant changes in body composition.

Study outcome

The analysis found an average decrease in Body Mass Index of 2.0 units, mean weight loss of 3.7 kg, and decrease in body fat percentage by 3.1 %. Lean tissue mass increased by 1.6 kg and waist circumference decreased by 3 cm on average. Unsurprisingly, concurrent diet intervention improved results further, and diet-only interventions were inconclusive.

In conclusion, exercise intervention in overweight/obese adolescents improves body composition. The results of this meta-analysis are of importance in the context of public health. You cannot outrun a bad diet, but remember you also cannot diet your way to health while maintaining a sedentary lifestyle.

Stoner et al. DzEfficacy of Exercise Intervention for Weight Loss in Overweight and Obese Adolescents: Meta-Analysis and Implicationsdz. Sports Med. 2016. 46(11): 1737-1751.

Provided by team EBT member Sarah Eleni, MSc Neuroscience, PhD Student and medical student.

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