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.