Effects of Exercise on Total and Intra-abdominal Body Fat in Postmenopausal Women

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Irwin, Melinda L.
Yasui, Yutaka
Ulrich, Cornelia M.
Bowen, Deborah
Rudolph, Rebecca E.
Schwartz, Robert S.
Yukawa, Michi
Aiello, Erin
Potter, John D.
McTiernan, Anne
Irwin, Melinda L. and Yasui, Yutaka and Ulrich, Cornelia M. and Bowen, Deborah and Rudolph, Rebecca E. and Schwartz, Robert S. and Yukawa, Michi and Aiello, Erin and Potter, John D. and McTiernan, Anne (2003) Effects of Exercise on Total and Intra-abdominal Body Fat in Postmenopausal Women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 289 (3). pp. 323-330.
Context The increasing prevalence of obesity is a major public health concern. Physical activity may promote weight and body fat loss. Objective To examine the effects of exercise on total and intra-abdominal body fat overall and by level of exercise. Design Randomized controlled trial conducted from 1997 to 2001. Setting and Participants A total of 173 sedentary, overweight (body mass index 24.0 and >33% body fat), postmenopausal women aged 50 to 75 years who were living in the Seattle, Wash, area. Intervention Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention consisting of exercise facility and home-based moderate-intensity exercise (n = 87) or a stretching control group (n = 86). Main Outcome Measure Changes in body weight and waist and hip circumferences at 3 and 12 months; total body, intra-abdominal, and subcutaneous abdominal fat at 12 months. Results Twelve-month data were available for 168 women. Women in the exercise group participated in moderate-intensity sports/recreational activity for a mean (SD) of 3.5 (1.2) d/wk for 176 (91) min/wk. Walking was the most frequently reported activity. Exercisers showed statistically significant differences from controls in baseline to 12-month changes in body weight (–1.4 kg; 95% confidence interval [CI], –2.5 to –0.3 kg), total body fat (–1.0%; 95% CI, –1.6% to –0.4%), intra-abdominal fat (–8.6 g/cm2; 95% CI, –17.8 to 0.9 g/cm2), and subcutaneous abdominal fat (–28.8 g/cm2; 95% CI, –47.5 to –10.0 g/cm2). A significant dose response for greater body fat loss was observed with increasing duration of exercise. Conclusions Regular exercise such as brisk walking results in reduced body weight and body fat among overweight and obese postmenopausal women.