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n South African Journal of Sports Medicine - Beneficial effects of exercise : shifting the focus from body weight to other markers of health : editor's choice
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) mmHg; p<0.05) and diastolic blood pressure (-3.9 (5.8) mmHg; 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.
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