It has been suggested that exercise training results in compensatory mechanisms that attenuate weight loss. However, this has only been examined with large doses of exercise. The goal of this analysis was to examine actual weight loss compared to predicted weight loss (compensation) across different doses of exercise in a controlled trial of sedentary, overweight or obese postmenopausal women (n = 411).
Participants were randomized to a non-exercise control (n = 94) or 1 of 3 exercise groups; exercise energy expenditure of 4 (n = 139), 8 (n = 85), or 12 (n = 93) kcal/kg/week (KKW). Training intensity was set at the heart rate associated with 50% of each woman's peak VO2 and the intervention period was 6 months. All exercise was supervised. The main outcomes were actual weight loss, predicted weight loss (exercise energy expenditure/ 7700 kcal per kg), compensation (actual minus predicted weight loss) and waist circumference. The study sample had a mean (SD) age 57.2 (6.3) years, BMI of 31.7 (3.8) kg/m2, and was 63.5% Caucasian. The adherence to the intervention was >99% in all exercise groups. The mean (95% CI) weight loss in the 4, 8 and 12 KKW groups was −1.4 (−2.0, −0.8), −2.1 (−2.9, −1.4) and −1.5 (−2.2, −0.8) kg, respectively. In the 4 and 8 KKW groups the actual weight loss closely matched the predicted weight loss of −1.0 and −2.0 kg, respectively, resulting in no significant compensation. In the 12 KKW group the actual weight loss was less than the predicted weight loss (−2.7 kg) resulting in 1.2 (0.5, 1.9) kg of compensation (P<0.05 compared to 4 and 8 KKW groups). All exercise groups had a significant reduction in waist circumference which was independent of changes in weight.
In this study of previously sedentary, overweight or obese, postmenopausal women we observed no difference in the actual and predicted weight loss with 4 and 8 KKW of exercise (72 and 136 minutes respectively), while the 12 KKW (194 minutes) produced only about half of the predicted weight loss. However, all exercise groups had a significant reduction in waist circumference which was independent of changes in weight.