Objective: Increased physical activity is important given the concern over the growing rates of obesity. The aim of this study is to conduct a controlled investigation of the effects of bright light therapy and exercise on weight loss and body composition in overweight and obese individuals.
Research methods and procedures: Twenty-five overweight and obese subjects were assigned to 6 weeks of moderate exercise with or without bright light treatment. Outcome measure included changes in body mass and body composition and ratings of mood, seasonality, and sleep.
Results: Body weight decreased significantly with exercise in subjects in the light and non-light treatment groups, but the change was not significantly different between the groups. Similar results were found for BMI. With exercise, body fat decreased significantly only in the light treatment group. There was a significant effect of the interaction of group by time on body fat composition, but the group by time interaction failed to reach statistical significance for body weight and BMI. Mood scores improved significantly with exercise in the light group, but no significant changes were noted regarding sleep.
Discussion: This preliminary study is the first to show that addition of bright light treatment to a 6-week moderate exercise program can alter body composition by significantly reducing body fat. The reduction in body fat mass is of particular importance, because visceral fat has been particularly implicated as a major factor in the development of the metabolic syndrome. This study is an important step toward finding ways to maximize the effects of exercise.