Importance: Little evidence exists on which exercise modality is optimal for obese adolescents.
Objective: To determine the effects of aerobic training, resistance training, and combined training on percentage body fat in overweight and obese adolescents.
Design, setting, and participants: Randomized, parallel-group clinical trial at community-based exercise facilities in Ottawa (Ontario) and Gatineau (Quebec), Canada, among previously inactive postpubertal adolescents aged 14 to 18 years (Tanner stage IV or V) with body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for age and sex or at or above the 85th percentile plus an additional diabetes mellitus or cardiovascular risk factor.
Interventions: After a 4-week run-in period, 304 participants were randomized to the following 4 groups for 22 weeks: aerobic training (n = 75), resistance training (n = 78), combined aerobic and resistance training (n = 75), or nonexercising control (n = 76). All participants received dietary counseling, with a daily energy deficit of 250 kcal.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was percentage body fat measured by magnetic resonance imaging at baseline and 6 months. We hypothesized that aerobic training and resistance training would each yield greater decreases than the control and that combined training would cause greater decreases than aerobic or resistance training alone.
Results: Decreases in percentage body fat were -0.3 (95% CI, -0.9 to 0.3) in the control group, -1.1 (95% CI, -1.7 to -0.5) in the aerobic training group (P = .06 vs controls), and -1.6 (95% CI, -2.2 to -1.0) in the resistance training group (P = .002 vs controls). The -1.4 (95% CI, -2.0 to -0.8) decrease in the combined training group did not differ significantly from that in the aerobic or resistance training group. Waist circumference changes were -0.2 (95% CI, -1.7 to 1.2) cm in the control group, -3.0 (95% CI, -4.4 to -1.6) cm in the aerobic group (P = .006 vs controls), -2.2 (95% CI -3.7 to -0.8) cm in the resistance training group (P = .048 vs controls), and -4.1 (95% CI, -5.5 to -2.7) cm in the combined training group. In per-protocol analyses (≥ 70% adherence), the combined training group had greater changes in percentage body fat (-2.4, 95% CI, -3.2 to -1.6) vs the aerobic group (-1.2; 95% CI, -2.0 to -0.5; P = .04 vs the combined group) but not the resistance group (-1.6; 95% CI, -2.5 to -0.8).
Conclusions and relevance: Aerobic, resistance, and combined training reduced total body fat and waist circumference in obese adolescents. In more adherent participants, combined training may cause greater decreases than aerobic or resistance training alone.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00195858.