Objective: To determine the effects of regular physical activity on body composition, as measured by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), in a large Caucasian population of healthy subjects between 15 and 64 yr of age, and to observe the cross-sectional changes in body composition with increasing age.
Design: Cross-sectional comparison between sedentary and physically active adults (at least 3 h x wk(-1) at moderate or hard intensity level activity) during aging.
Subjects: A total of 3853 healthy adults (1036 sedentary and 1019 physically active men, and 1280 sedentary and 518 physically active women) between 15 and 64 yr of age.
Measurements: Height, weight, body mass index (BMI), and fat-free mass (FFM), fat mass, and % fat mass measured by 50-kHz BIA.
Results: Higher weight in older sedentary adults was due to a higher fat mass. In 55- to 64-yr-olds compared with 25- to 34-yr-olds, fat mass was 5.5 kg (P < 0.0001) higher in sedentary and 0.6 kg (P < 0.3) higher in physically active men, and 4.5 kg (P < 0.0001) and 2.0 kg (P < 0.04) higher in sedentary and physically active women, respectively. Physical activity was able to limit fat mass and weight gain in men over 25 yr of age and in women until 54 yr of age. Endurance type physical activity was not associated with increased FFM. For the same BMI, sedentary men and women have < 0.7 kg (P < 0.001) higher fat mass than physically active men and women.
Conclusion: Therefore, the benefits of physical activity seem to include maintenance or prevention of an increase of BMI that in turn correlates with prevention of a fat mass increase for physically active subjects.