The effects of exercise training in addition to energy restriction on functional capacities and body composition in obese adults during weight loss: a systematic review

PLoS One. 2013 Nov 25;8(11):e81692. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081692. eCollection 2013.


Background: Obesity is associated with impairments of physical function, cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and the capacity to perform activities of daily living. This review examines the specific effects of exercise training in relation to body composition and physical function demonstrated by changes in cardiovascular fitness, and muscle strength when obese adults undergo energy restriction.

Methods: Electronic databases were searched for randomised controlled trials comparing energy restriction plus exercise training to energy restriction alone. Studies published to May 2013 were included if they used multi-component methods for analysing body composition and assessed measures of fitness in obese adults.

Results: Fourteen RCTs met the inclusion criteria. Heterogeneity of study characteristics prevented meta-analysis. Energy restriction plus exercise training was more effective than energy restriction alone for improving cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, and increasing fat mass loss and preserving lean body mass, depending on the type of exercise training.

Conclusion: Adding exercise training to energy restriction for obese middle-aged and older individuals results in favourable changes to fitness and body composition. Whilst weight loss should be encouraged for obese individuals, exercise training should be included in lifestyle interventions as it offers additional benefits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Caloric Restriction*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*

Grant support

Dr. Itamar Levinger is a Heart Foundation Research Fellow (PR 11M 6086 and Prof John Dixon is an NHMRC Senior Research Fellow. Dr. Nora Straznicky is funded by a Heart Foundation Grant-in-Aid (G11M5892) and a Diabetes Australia Millennium Grant. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.