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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001 May;25(5):676-81.

Study of differences in peripheral muscle strength of lean versus obese women: an allometric approach.

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Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.



To investigate whether peripheral muscle strength is significantly different between lean and obese women controlled for age and physical activity, using an allometric approach.


Cross-sectional study of isometric handgrip and isokinetic leg and trunk muscle strength.


173 obese (age 39.9+/-11.4 y, body mass index (BMI) 37.8+/-5.3 kg/m(2)) and 80 lean (age 39.7+/-12.2 y, BMI 22.0+/-2.2 kg/m(2)) women.


Anthropometric measures (weight, height) and body composition (bioelectrical impedance method), isometric handgrip (maximal voluntary contraction on the Jamar dynamometer), isokinetic trunk flexion-extension, trunk rotation, and knee flexion-extension (Cybex dynamometers).


Absolute isokinetic strength output (that is, strength uncorrected for fat-free mass) was larger in obese compared to lean women, except for knee flexion and isometric handgrip, which were not significantly different (P>0.05). Pearson correlation coefficients between strength measures and fat-free mass (kg) were low to moderate both in lean (r=0.28-0.53, P<0.05) and in obese (r=0.29-0.49, P<0.001) women. There was no correlation with fat mass (kg) in the lean, whereas in the obese women a weak positive relation could be observed for most isokinetic data (r=0.21-0.39, P<0.01). When correcting for fat-free mass (raised to the optimal exponent determined by allometric scaling), all strength measurements were at least 6% lower in obese when compared to the lean women, except for trunk flexion, which was at least 8% stronger in obese women.


The higher absolute knee extension strength measures of leg and the similar extension strength of the trunk in the obese sample compared to the lean might be explained by the training effect of weight bearing and support of a larger body mass. However when the independent effect of fat-free mass is removed, these strength measures, as well as oblique abdominal muscle and handgrip strength, turned out to be lower in obese women. These observations could be the reflection of the overall impairment of physical fitness as a consequence of obesity and its metabolic complications.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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