Obesity treatment: Weight loss versus increasing fitness and physical activity for reducing health risks

iScience. 2021 Sep 20;24(10):102995. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.102995. eCollection 2021 Oct 22.


We propose a weight-neutral strategy for obesity treatment on the following grounds: (1) the mortality risk associated with obesity is largely attenuated or eliminated by moderate-to-high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) or physical activity (PA), (2) most cardiometabolic risk markers associated with obesity can be improved with exercise training independent of weight loss and by a magnitude similar to that observed with weight-loss programs, (3) weight loss, even if intentional, is not consistently associated with lower mortality risk, (4) increases in CRF or PA are consistently associated with greater reductions in mortality risk than is intentional weight loss, and (5) weight cycling is associated with numerous adverse health outcomes including increased mortality. Adherence to PA may improve if health care professionals consider PA and CRF as essential vital signs and consistently emphasize to their patients the myriad benefits of PA and CRF in the absence of weight loss.

Keywords: Nutrition; Obesity medicine; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review