Plasma leptin and exercise: recent findings

Sports Med. 2003;33(7):473-82. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333070-00001.


It is established that plasma leptin is associated with satiety and that leptin stimulates lipid metabolism, and increases energy expenditure. These effects implicate leptin as a major regulator of energy homeostasis, which may serve to limit excess energy storage. As plasma leptin concentrations are tightly coupled with fat mass in humans, decreases in adipose mass with weight loss coincide with decreased concentrations of circulating leptin. However, due to many confounding factors, the effects of exercise on circulating leptin are less clear. The data from investigations examining single exercise bouts suggest that serum leptin concentrations are unaltered by short duration (41 minutes or less), non-exhaustive exercise, but may be affected by short duration, exhaustive exercise. More convincingly, studies investigating long duration exercise bouts indicate that serum leptin concentrations are reduced with exercise durations ranging from one to multiple hours. These findings raise speculation that exercise-associated reductions in leptin may be due to alterations in nutrient availability or nutrient flux at the level of the adipocytes, the primary site of leptin production and secretion. Thus, one purpose of this review is to discuss the effects of exercise on circulating leptin concentrations with special emphasis on studies that have examined single exercise bouts that are associated with high levels of energy expenditure and energy deficit. In addition, a 'nutrient sensing pathway' (the hexosamine biosynthetic pathway), which regulates leptin gene expression, will be discussed as a possible mechanism by which exercise-induced energy deficit may modulate serum leptin concentrations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperlipidemias / metabolism
  • Hyperlipidemias / physiopathology
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Satiety Response / physiology


  • Leptin