Perturbations in body weight have been shown to affect energy expenditure and efficiency during physical activity. The separate effects of weight loss and exercise training on exercise efficiency or the proportion of energy derived from fat oxidation during physical activity, however, are not known. The purpose of this study was to determine the separate and combined effects of exercise training and weight loss on metabolic efficiency, economy (EC), and fat oxidation during steady-state moderate submaximal exercise. Sixty-four sedentary older (67 +/- 0.5 yr) overweight to obese (30.7 +/- 0.4 kg/m(2)) volunteers completed 4 mo of either diet-induced weight loss (WL; n = 11), exercise training (EX; n = 36), or the combination of both interventions (WLEX; n = 17). Energy expenditure, gross efficiency (GE), EC, and proportion of energy expended from fat (EF) were determined during a 1-h submaximal (50% of peak aerobic capacity) cycle ergometry exercise before the intervention and at the same absolute work rate after the intervention. We found that EX increased GE by 4.7 +/- 2.2%. EC was similarly increased by 4.2 +/- 2.1% by EX. The addition of concomitant WL to EX (WLEX) resulted in greater increases in GE (9.0 +/- 3.3%) compared with WL alone but not compared with EX alone. These effects remained after adjusting for changes in lean body mass. The proportion of energy derived from fat during the bout of moderate exercise increased with EX and WLEX but not with WL. From these findings, we conclude that exercise training, either alone or in combination with weight loss, increases both exercise efficiency and the utilization of fat during moderate physical activity in previously sedentary, obese older adults. Weight loss alone, however, significantly improves neither efficiency nor utilization of fat during exercise.