Purpose: The purpose of this study was to quantify the effects of exercise treatment programs on changes in body mass, fat-free mass, and body fat in obese children and adolescents.
Methods: By using the meta-analytic approach, studies that met the following criteria were included in our analyses: 1) at least six subjects per group; 2) subject groups consisting of children in the 5- to 17-yr age range; 3) pretest and posttest values for either body mass, percent body fat, or fat-free mass (FFM); 4) used exercise as a mode of treatment (e.g., walking, jogging, cycle ergometry, high-repetition resistance exercise, and combinations); 6) training programs >or= 3 wk; 7) full-length publications (not conference proceedings); 8) apparently "healthy" children (i.e., free from endocrine diseases and disorders); and 9) published studies in English language journals only.
Results: A total of 120 investigations were located that addressed the issue of exercise as a method of treatment in pediatric obesity. Of those, 30 met our criteria for inclusion. Across all designs and categories, fixed-effects modeling yielded significant decreases in the following dependent variables: 1) percent body fat (mean = 0.70 +/- 0.35; 95% CI = 0.21 to 1.1); 2) FFM (mean = 0.50 +/- 0.38; 95% CI = 0.03 to 0.57); 3) body mass (mean = 0.34 +/- 0.18; 95% CI = 0.01 to 0.46); 4) BMI (mean = 0.76 +/- 0.55; 95% CI = 4.24 to 1.7), and 5) VO2max (mean = 0.52 +/- 0.16; 95% CI = 0.18 to 0.89), respectively. Significant differences were found as a function of the type intervention groups (exercise vs exercise + behavioral modification; P < 0.04); body composition assessment methods (skinfold vs hydrostatic weighing, DEXA, and total body water; P < 0.006); exercise intensity (60-65%, vs >or= 71% VO2max; P < 0.01); duration (<or= 30 min vs > 30 min; P < 0.03); and mode (aerobic vs aerobic + resistance training; P < 0.02). Stepwise linear regression suggested that initial body fat levels (or body mass), type of treatment intervention, exercise intensity, and exercise mode accounted for most of the variance associated with changes in body composition after training.
Conclusions: Exercise is efficacious for reducing selected body composition variables in children and adolescents. The most favorable alterations in body composition occurred with 1) low-intensity, long-duration exercise; 2) aerobic exercise combined with high-repetition resistance training; and 3) exercise programs combined with a behavioral-modification component.