Associations of physical activity with body weight and fat in men and women

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 Jun;25(6):914-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801622.


Objective: Increasing physical activity is strongly advocated as a key public health strategy for weight gain prevention. We investigated associations of leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) and occupational/domestic physical activity with body mass index (BMI) and a skinfold-derived index of body fat (sum of six skinfolds), among normal-weight and overweight men and women.

Design: Analyses of cross-sectional self-report and measured anthropometric data.

Subjects: A total of 1302 men and women, aged 18-78 y, who were part of a randomly selected sample and who agreed to participate in a physical health assessment.

Measurements: Self-report measures of physical activity, measured height and weight, and a skinfold-derived index of body fatness.

Results: Higher levels of LTPA were positively associated with the likelihood of being in the normal BMI and lower body fat range for women, but few or no associations were found for men. No associations were found between measures of occupational/domestic activity and BMI or body fat for men or women.

Conclusion: By using a skinfold sum as a more direct measure of adiposity, this study extends and confirms the previous research that has shown an association between BMI and LTPA. Our results suggest gender differences in the relationship of leisure-time physical activity with body fatness. These findings, in conjunction with a better understanding of the causes of such differences, will have important public health implications for the development and targeting of weight gain prevention strategies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Weight Gain