The effects of overfeeding on spontaneous physical activity in obesity prone and obesity resistant humans

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Nov;20(11):2186-93. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.103. Epub 2012 Apr 23.


Despite living in an environment that promotes weight gain in many individuals, some individuals maintain a thin phenotype while self-reporting expending little or no effort to control their weight. When compared with obesity prone (OP) individuals, we wondered if obesity resistant (OR) individuals would have higher levels of spontaneous physical activity (SPA) or respond to short-term overfeeding by increasing their level of SPA in a manner that could potentially limit future weight gain. SPA was measured in 55 subjects (23 OP and 32 OR) using a novel physical activity monitoring system (PAMS) that measured body position and movement while subjects were awake for 6 days, either in a controlled eucaloric condition or during 3 days of overfeeding (1.4 × basal energy) and for the subsequent 3 days (ad libitum recovery period). Pedometers were also used before and during use of the PAMS to provide an independent measure of SPA. SPA was quantified by the PAMS as fraction of recording time spent lying, sitting, or in an upright posture. Accelerometry, measured while subjects were in an upright posture, was used to categorize time spent in different levels of movement (standing, walking slowly, quickly, etc.). There were no differences in SPA between groups when examined across all study periods (P > 0.05). However, 3 days following overfeeding, OP subjects significantly decreased the amount of time they spent walking (-2.0% of time, P = 0.03), whereas OR subjects maintained their walking (+0.2%, P > 0.05). The principle findings of this study are that increased levels of SPA either during eucaloric feeding or following short term overfeeding likely do not significantly contribute to obesity resistance although a decrease in SPA following overfeeding may contribute to future weight gain in individuals prone to obesity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adult
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Overnutrition
  • Thinness / genetics
  • Thinness / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Gain