Recent studies describe an association between poor iron status and obesity in humans, although the mechanism explaining this relationship is unclear. The present study aimed to determine the effect of moderate iron deficiency and physical activity (PA) on body composition in an animal model. Male Sprague-Dawley rats consumed iron-adequate (IA; 40 mg/kg) or moderately iron-deficient (ID; 9 mg/kg) diets ad libitum for 12 wk. Rats were assigned to 4 treatment groups (n = 10 per group): IA, sedentary (IAS); IA, PA (IAPA); ID, sedentary (IDS); or ID, PA (IDPA). Activity involved running on motorized running wheels at 4 m/min for 1 h/d for 5 d/wk. After 12 wk, ID rats were not anemic, but body iron stores were reduced as indicated by diminished (P < 0.05) femur iron compared with IA rats. Treatment group did not affect body weight or feed consumption. However, fat mass was greater (P < 0.05) in IDS rats (38.6 +/- 6.7%) than IAS (31.8 +/- 2.9%), IAPA (31.8 +/- 2.0%), and IDPA (32.8 +/- 4.5%) rats. Furthermore, lean body mass was diminished in IDS rats (58.7 +/- 6.8%) compared with IAS (65.6 +/- 3.0%), IAPA (65.6 +/- 2.1%), and IDPA (64.7 +/- 4.5%) rats. Thus, moderate iron deficiency may cause increased body fat accretion in rats and PA attenuates that effect.