Effects of exercise on brown and beige adipocytes

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2019 Jan;1864(1):71-78. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2018.04.013. Epub 2018 Apr 21.


Physical exercise leads to beneficial effects in numerous tissues and organ systems and offers protection against obesity and type 2 diabetes. Recent studies have investigated the role of exercise on brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT), and have indicated marked adaptations to each tissue with exercise. Studies investigating the effects of exercise on BAT have produced conflicting results, with some showing an increase in the thermogenic activity of BAT and some demonstrating a decrease in the thermogenic activity of BAT. Human studies have observed a down-regulation of BAT activity (measured by a reduction in glucose uptake) in response to exercise. In WAT, exercise decreases adipocyte size, alters gene expression, and increases mitochondrial activity. Transplantation of exercise-trained subcutaneous WAT (scWAT) improves whole-body metabolic health. In rodents, exercise also results in a beiging of scWAT. Thus, exercise-induced changes to adipose tissue may be part of the mechanism by which exercise improves metabolic health.

Keywords: BAT; Beige adipose tissue; Exercise; Metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes, Beige / physiology*
  • Adipocytes, Brown / physiology*
  • Adipocytes, White / physiology
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology
  • Animals
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Transcriptome