Effect of exercise on total and intra-abdominal body fat in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial

JAMA. 2003 Jan 15;289(3):323-30. doi: 10.1001/jama.289.3.323.


Context: The increasing prevalence of obesity is a major public health concern. Physical activity may promote weight and body fat loss.

Objective: To examine the effects of exercise on total and intra-abdominal body fat overall and by level of exercise.

Design: Randomized controlled trial conducted from 1997 to 2001.

Setting and participants: A total of 173 sedentary, overweight (body mass index > or =24.0 and >33% body fat), postmenopausal women aged 50 to 75 years who were living in the Seattle, Wash, area.

Intervention: Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention consisting of exercise facility and home-based moderate-intensity exercise (n = 87) or a stretching control group (n = 86).

Main outcome measure: Changes in body weight and waist and hip circumferences at 3 and 12 months; total body, intra-abdominal, and subcutaneous abdominal fat at 12 months.

Results: Twelve-month data were available for 168 women. Women in the exercise group participated in moderate-intensity sports/recreational activity for a mean (SD) of 3.5 (1.2) d/wk for 176 (91) min/wk. Walking was the most frequently reported activity. Exercisers showed statistically significant differences from controls in baseline to 12-month changes in body weight (-1.4 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI], -2.5 to -0.3 kg), total body fat (-1.0%; 95% CI, -1.6% to -0.4%), intra-abdominal fat (-8.6 g/cm2; 95% CI, -17.8 to 0.9 g/cm2), and subcutaneous abdominal fat (-28.8 g/cm2); 95% CI, -47.5 to -10.0 g/cm2). A significant dose response for greater body fat loss was observed with increasing duration of exercise.

Conclusions: Regular exercise such as brisk walking results in reduced body weight and body fat among overweight and obese postmenopausal women.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adipose Tissue
  • Aged
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Postmenopause
  • Weight Loss