Effects of exercise on metabolic risk variables in overweight postmenopausal women: a randomized clinical trial

Obes Res. 2005 Mar;13(3):615-25. doi: 10.1038/oby.2005.66.


Objective: This study examined the effects of exercise on metabolic risk variables insulin, leptin, glucose, and triglycerides in overweight/obese postmenopausal women.

Research methods and procedures: Sedentary women (n = 173) who were overweight or obese (BMI > or = 25 kg/m(2) or > or =24 kg/m(2) with > or =33% body fat), 50 to 75 years of age, were randomized to 12 months of exercise (> or =45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 d/wk) or to a stretching control group. Body composition (DXA) and visceral adiposity (computed tomography) were measured at baseline and 12 months. Insulin, glucose, triglycerides, and leptin were measured at baseline and 3 and 12 months. Insulin resistance was evaluated by the homeostasis model assessment formula. Differences from baseline to follow-up were calculated and compared across groups.

Results: Exercisers had a 4% decrease and controls had a 12% increase in insulin concentrations from baseline to 12 months (p = 0.0002). Over the same 12-month period, leptin concentrations decreased by 7% among exercisers compared with remaining constant among controls (p = 0.03). Homeostasis model assessment scores decreased by 2% among exercisers and increased 14% among controls from baseline to 12 months (p = 0.0005). The exercise effect on insulin was modified by changes in total fat mass (trend, p = 0.03), such that the exercise intervention abolished increases in insulin concentrations associated with gains in total fat mass.

Discussion: Regular moderate-intensity exercise can be used to improve metabolic risk variables such as insulin and leptin in overweight/obese postmenopausal women. These results are promising for health care providers providing advice to postmenopausal women for lifestyle changes to reduce risk of insulin resistance, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Composition
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Leptin / blood
  • Life Style
  • Metabolic Syndrome*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / blood*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Patient Compliance
  • Postmenopause*
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Leptin
  • Triglycerides