Impact of training modes on fitness and body composition in women with obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Type Article

Journal Article


M. E. Davis; C. Blake; C. Perrotta; C. Cunningham; G. O'Donoghue

Year of publication



Obesity (Silver Spring)








OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to assess the effectiveness of different exercise modalities and determine the optimal exercise prescription for improving cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and metabolic health of women with obesity. METHODS: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published between January 1988 and October 2020 was conducted. The RCTs were screened using the following inclusion criteria: 1) participants: women aged 18 to 65 years with BMI > 30 kg/m(2) and without comorbidities; 2) intervention: exercise; 3) comparison: non-intervention control; and 4) outcomes measures: cardiorespiratory fitness (maximal oxygen consumption), body composition (i.e., body weight, percentage body fat), and/or metabolic measures (i.e., blood pressure, cholesterol). RESULTS: A total of 20 RCTs with a total of 2,062 participants were included. Although the results showed that any form of exercise was more effective than control, improvements in fitness and body composition were modest. Aerobic exercise (vigorous and moderate intensity) appeared most promising for improving fitness and body weight, whereas low-load resistance training resulted in the largest improvements in body fatness. CONCLUSIONS: In women living with obesity, aerobic exercise was consistently effective in improving fitness and body composition. Although both resistance training and combined exercise interventions appear promising, more research is needed to evaluate their efficacy and determine an optimal exercise prescription for this population.