Regional body composition changes in women after 6 months of periodized physical training

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2000 Jun;88(6):2251-9. doi: 10.1152/jappl.2000.88.6.2251.


Data are lacking regarding regional morphological changes among women after prolonged physical training. This study employed dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to assess changes in whole body and regional (i.e., trunk, legs, arms) fat mass, lean mass, and bone mineral content body composition adaptations in 31 healthy women pre-, mid-, and post-6 mo of periodized physical training. These results were compared with those of 1) a control group of women who had not undergone the training program and were assessed pre- and post-6 mo and 2) a group of 18 men that was tested only once. Additionally, magnetic resonance imaging was used to assess changes in muscle morphology of the thigh in a subset of 11 members of the training group. Physical training consisted of a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise in which the subjects engaged for 5 days/wk for 24 wk. Overall, the training group experienced a 2.2% decrease, a 10% decrease, and a 2.2% increase for body mass, fat mass, and soft tissue lean mass, respectively. No changes in bone mineral content were detected. The women had less of their soft tissue lean mass distributed in their arms than did the men, both before and after the women were trained. Novel to this study were the striking differences in the responses in the tissue composition of the arms (31% loss in fat mass but no change in lean mass) compared with the legs (5.5% gain in lean mass but no change in fat mass). There was a 12% fat loss in the trunk with no change in soft tissue lean mass. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry and magnetic resonance imaging fat mass measurements showed good agreement (r = 0. 72-0.92); their lean mass measurements were similar as well, showing approximately 5.5% increases in leg lean tissue. These findings show the importance of considering regional body composition changes, rather than whole body changes alone when assessing the effects of a periodized physical training program.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Bone Density
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Periodicity*
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Time Factors