The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance

Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Jan-Feb;56(4):441-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Oct 11.


This review explores the role of physical activity (PA) and exercise training (ET) in the prevention of weight gain, initial weight loss, weight maintenance, and the obesity paradox. In particular, we will focus the discussion on the expected initial weight loss from different ET programs, and explore intensity/volume relationships. Based on the present literature, unless the overall volume of aerobic ET is very high, clinically significant weight loss is unlikely to occur. Also, ET also has an important role in weight regain after initial weight loss. Overall, aerobic ET programs consistent with public health recommendations may promote up to modest weight loss (~2 kg), however the weight loss on an individual level is highly heterogeneous. Clinicians should educate their patients on reasonable expectations of weight loss based on their physical activity program and emphasize that numerous health benefits occur from PA programs in the absence of weight loss.

Keywords: ACSM; American College of Sports Medicine; CHD; CRF; CV; Cardiorespiratory fitness; Cardiovascular; Coronary heart disease; DARE; DREW; Diabetes Aerobic and Resistance Exercise; Dose Response to Exercise in Women; ET; Exercise training; HART-D; HF; Health Benefits of Aerobic and Resistance Training; Heart failure; MET; Metabolic equivalent; PA; Physical activity; STRRIDE; Studies of a Targeted Risk Reduction Intervention through Defined Exercise; T2DM; Type 2 diabetes mellitus; Weight loss; Weight regain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet, Fat-Restricted
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Role
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Loss*