Exercise in the management of obesity

Metabolism. 2019 Mar:92:163-169. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2018.10.009. Epub 2018 Oct 29.


Obesity is a multifactorial disease with increasing incidence and burden on societies worldwide. Obesity can be managed through everyday behavioral changes involving energy intake and energy expenditure. Concerning the latter, there is strong evidence that regular exercise contributes to body weight and fat loss, maintenance of body weight and fat reduction, and metabolic fitness in obesity. Appropriate exercise programs should ideally combine large negative energy balance, long-term adherence, and beneficial effects on health and well-being. Endurance training appears to be the most effective in this respect, although resistance training and high-intensity interval training play distinct roles in the effectiveness of exercise interventions. With weight regain being so common, weight loss maintenance is probably the greatest challenge in the successful treatment of obesity. There is an established association between higher levels of physical activity and greater weight loss maintenance, based on the abundance of evidence from prospective observational studies and retrospective analyses. However, proving a causative relationship between exercise and weight loss maintenance is difficult at present. Exercise has the potential to alleviate the health consequences of obesity, even in the absence of weight loss. All in all, exercise constitutes an indispensable, yet often underestimated, tool in the management of obesity.

Keywords: Energy balance; Exercise; Obesity; Weight maintenance; Weight management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Weight Loss