What exercise prescription is optimal to improve body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness in adults living with obesity? A network meta-analysis

Type Article

Journal Article


G. O'Donoghue; C. Blake; C. Cunningham; O. Lennon; C. Perrotta

Year of publication



Obes Rev








Current international guidelines recommend people living with obesity should be prescribed a minimum of 300 min of moderately intense activity per week for weight loss. However, the most efficacious exercise prescription to improve anthropometry, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and metabolic health in this population remains unknown. Thus, this network meta-analysis was conducted to assess and rank comparative efficacy of different exercise interventions on anthropometry, CRF and other metabolic risk factors. Five electronic databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared different exercise modalities to improve anthropometry, CRF and/or metabolic health in adults living with obesity. RCTs were evaluated using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. A random effects network meta-analysis was performed within a frequentist framework. Of the 6663 articles retrieved, 45 studies with a total 3566 participants were included. Results reveal that while any type of exercise intervention is more effective than control, weight loss induced is modest. Interventions that combine high-intensity aerobic and high-load resistance training exert beneficial effects that are superior to any other exercise modality at decreasing abdominal adiposity, improving lean body mass and increasing CRF. Clinicians should consider this evidence when prescribing exercise for adults living with obesity, to ensure optimal effectiveness.