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Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Dec;30(12):1750-7. Epub 2006 Apr 18.

Influence of obesity on accurate and rapid arm movement performed from a standing posture.

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Groupe de Recherche en Analyse du Mouvement et Ergonomie (GRAME), Qu├ębec, Canada.



Obesity yields a decreased postural stability. The potentially negative impact of obesity on the control of upper limb movements, however, has not been documented. This study sought to examine if obesity imposes an additional balance control constraint limiting the speed and accuracy with which an upper limb goal-directed movement performed from an upright standing position can be executed.


Eight healthy lean subjects (body mass index (BMI) between 20.9 and 25.0 kg/m(2)) and nine healthy obese subjects (BMI between 30.5 and 48.6 kg/m(2)) pointed to a target located in front of them from an upright standing posture. The task was to aim at the target as fast and as precisely as possible after an auditory signal. The difficulty of the task was varied by using different target sizes (0.5, 1.0, 2.5 and 5.0 cm width). Hand movement time (MT) and velocity profiles were measured to quantify the aiming. Centre of pressure and segmental kinematics were analysed to document postural stability.


When aiming, the forward centre of pressure (CP) displacement was greater for the obese group than for the normal BMI group (4.6 and 1.9 cm, respectively). For the obese group, a decrease in the target size was associated with an increase in backward CP displacement and CP peak speed whereas for the normal BMI group backward CP displacements and CP peak speed were about the same across all target sizes. Obese participants aimed at the target moving their whole body forward whereas the normal BMI subjects predominantly made an elbow extension and shoulder flexion. For both groups, MT increased with a decreasing target size. Compare to the normal BMI group, this effect was exacerbated for the obese group. For the two smallest targets, movements were on average 115 and 145 ms slower for the obese than for the normal BMI group suggesting that obesity added a balance constraint and limited the speed with which an accurate movement could be done.


Obesity, because of its effects on the control of balance, also imposes constraints on goal-directed movements. From a clinical perspective, obese individuals might be less efficient and more at risk of injuries than normal weight individuals in a large number of work tasks and daily activities requiring upper limb movements performed from an upright standing position.

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