Effect of exercise on the development of new fatty liver and the resolution of existing fatty liver

J Hepatol. 2016 Oct;65(4):791-797. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2016.05.026. Epub 2016 May 30.


Background & aims: Guidelines about recommendations for amounts of exercise/physical activity are variable in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Our aim was to determine the amount of exercise that was associated with two outcomes: a) development of incident liver fat and b) resolution of baseline liver fat, at five-year follow-up.

Methods: In an occupational health screening program, weekly frequency of exercise was assessed using the validated Korean version of the International Physical Activity Questionnaire Short Form (IPAQ-SF). Liver fat was identified by ultrasonography (3.5MHz probe) at baseline and at five-year follow-up. Fully adjusted Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs and 95% confidence intervals [CI]) for incident fatty liver and resolution of fatty liver at follow-up.

Results: 233,676 men and women were studied between 2002 and 2014. 126,811 individuals were identified without fatty liver, and of these subjects, 29,014 subjects developed incident fatty liver during follow-up. At baseline, there were 42,536 individuals with liver fat and of these individuals, fatty liver resolved in 14,514, during follow-up. After full adjustment, compared to no exercise, exercise was associated with benefit for both outcomes; for exercise ⩾5times per week for incident fatty liver: HR 0.86 (95% CI 0.80,0.92), p<0.001, and for resolution of fatty liver HR 1.40 (95% CI 1.25,1.55), p<0.001.

Conclusions: Moderate to vigorous exercise is beneficial in decreasing risk of development of new fatty liver or improving resolution of existing fatty liver during 5years of follow-up.

Lay summary: The amount of exercise/physical activity to benefit fatty liver disease in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is not known. In a large study of free-living people, our aim was to determine the amount of exercise that was linked with a decrease in new fatty liver and also improvement of existing fatty liver over 5years of follow-up. Compared to no exercise, exercise ⩾5times per week (lasting at least 10min on each occasion) was linked to a highly significantly benefit for both a decrease in new fatty liver and also improvement of existing fatty liver.

Keywords: Exercise; Insulin resistance; Metabolic syndrome; Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Obesity; Type 2 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Fatty Liver
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors