Effect of physical training on total and visceral fat in obese children

Scott Owens, Bernard Gutin, Jerry Allison, Sharon Riggs, Michael Ferguson, Mark Litaker, William Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


Purpose: Children with high levels of total body fat mass (TFM) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) have elevated levels of certain risk factors for coronary artery disease and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. We tested the hypothesis that controlled physical training, without dietary intervention, would have a favorable impact on VAT and percent body fat (%BF) in obese children. Methods: A volunteer sample of 74 obese children, 7-11 yr of age, accepted random assignment to physical training or control groups. Before and after 4 months of intervention, measurements were obtained for VAT, TFM, %BF, daily physical activity, and cardiovascular fitness. The intervention involved 4 months of controlled physical training 5 d · wk- 1, 40 min per session, at a mean heart rate (HR) of 157 beats · min-1. The estimated energy expenditure (EE) per training session was 925 ± 201 kJ. Results: Compared with the control group, the physical training group declined significantly in %BF (Δ = -2.2%) (p < 0.01), TFM (Δ = -3.1%) (P < 0.01), and subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (Δ = -16.1%) (P < 0.05), and increased significantly in fat-free mass (Δ = +6.1%) (P < 0.05) and moderate-to-very hard physical activity (Δ = +14.1%) (P < 0.05). The increase in VAT was significantly less in the physical training group (Δ = +0.5%) as compared with that in the control group (Δ = +8.1%) (P < 0.05). Conclusions: This study showed that during physical training obese children: 1) were capable of participating in a substantial amount of high intensity physical training over a 4-month period; 2) accumulated significantly less VAT as compared with nonexercising controls; and 3) experienced other beneficial changes in total and regional body composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-148
Number of pages6
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Body composition
  • Exercise
  • Intra-abdominal fat
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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