Relationship of obesity with physical activity, aerobic fitness and muscle strength in Flemish adults

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2008 Jun;48(2):201-10.


Aim: The aim of this study was to analyse differences in physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and muscle strength between normal weight, overweight and obese adults and to investigate the role of physical activity variables in the analyses of differences in CRF and muscle strength between these groups.

Methods: A total of 807 men and 633 women (age: 18-75 years) were included in this cross-sectional study. Weight, height, waist circumference (WC) and bioelectrical impedance were measured. Different dimensions of physical activity were assessed using a validated questionnaire. CRF (VO(2peak)) was evaluated by a maximal test on a cycle ergometer. Knee strength was measured with a calibrated Biodex System Pro 3 dynamometer. Three methods were used for classification in obesity groups: body mass index (BMI), WC and combined BMI-WC classification.

Results: Health-related sports and physical activity level are negatively associated with obesity in men, but not in women. Television viewing is positively associated with obesity, while VO(2peak)/fat free mass (FFM) and knee strength/FFM show a negative association with obesity in both genders. Overall, subjects with normal WC seem to be more physically active and to have somewhat better values for CRF compared to those with high WC within the same BMI category. Lower values for relative CRF and knee strength in obese subjects compared to their lean counterparts remain after adjustment for physical activity.

Conclusion: This study confirms the lower level of physical activity and the impaired CRF and knee strength in obese adults compared to their lean counterparts. This study also sustains the importance of measuring WC and CRF during clinical examinations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Belgium
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength / physiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Sex Factors