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J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1994 Mar;34(1):91-8.

Physical activity and reduction of health risks: how far are the benefits independent of fat loss?

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  • 1School of Physical and Health Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada.


This paper considers how far the postulated health benefits of exercise are attributable to a decrease of body fat. Some of the well-accepted gains such as a reduction in the risk of ischemic heart disease are seen even when the data are controlled for body mass. However, other responses such as a reduced incidence of some types of cancer and a decrease of waking blood pressure are closely linked to body fat content and associated metabolic disturbances. The medium-term weight loss is relatively similar for an exercise programme and a dietary regimen, but exercise tends to conserve lean tissue. Exercise also has unique beneficial effects upon musculo-skeletal disorders and mood state. Perhaps most importantly, it improves the quality of life, helping to maintain physical abilities and thus independence into extreme old age. Nevertheless, the optimum recommendation for the moderately obese patient is usually to combine a progressive exercise regiment with a moderate restriction of food intake.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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