The effects of exercise on body weight and fat: how much is enough?

Williams, Daniel P.; Fuller Hayes, Arwen A.
December 2010
International Journal of Body Composition Research;2010 Supplement, Vol. 8, p61
Academic Journal
The contemporary obesity epidemic is likely caused by a susceptible human biology that is better able to defend against weight loss than against weight gain interacting with an increasingly obesigenic environment that encourages energy intake and discourages energy expenditure. Studies of the Old Order Amish community provide striking examples of how a nearly complete renunciation of the obesigenic changes in our external environment can lead to an effective avoidance of the obesity epidemic. However, the vast majority of the population would be unable or unwilling to adopt such a physically demanding lifestyle. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to critically review the recommendations and the underlying evidence for the amount of exercise that may be needed to prevent unhealthy weight gain and to treat overweight and obese individuals. The US Department of Health and Human Services recently recommended that adults engage in enough physical activity to expend 13-26 kcal of energy for every kilogram of body weight per week to maintain body weight stability. Three of the biggest limitations of the exercise doseresponse literature for body weight management are as follows: (1) most studies include only one experimental dose of exercise; (2) the compensatory mechanistic responses to an experimental dose of exercise are rarely, if ever, comprehensively assessed in a single study; and (3) most studies do not account for the genotypic differences that help to explain the substantial inter-individual differences in exercise responsiveness. Despite these weaknesses, there is some emerging evidence that habitually active individuals with a high energy flux may get a sympathetically-mediated boost in resting energy expenditure that may improve body weight regulation


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