Potential benefits of strength training for people living with obesity

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University of New Brunswick


Being physically active is linked to health benefits no matter what size one is and regardless of weight loss for people living with obesity. Many barriers exist to meeting the physical activity guidelines and even more, if living with obesity. Compared with aerobic activities, such as walking, the health benefits of muscle-strengthening activities or the combination of both modes of activities may offer unique benefits for individuals living with obesity regardless of weight loss. However, sex differences are not well understood, and strategies to encourage people living with obesity to regularly participate in aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities need to be tested. The objectives of this thesis include threefold. First, we aimed to test the benefits of meeting the muscle-strengthening activity guidelines in people living with obesity and the role of sex in body fat percentage and mortality using a secondary study involving 3915 people living with obesity. We reported that meeting muscle-strengthening activities guidelines was associated with lower body fat (ꞵ: -0.78) (p<0.001) but not mortality (Hazard Ratio: 0.911) (p=0.615) in people living with obesity; however, it did not affect men and women differently. Second, we tested if a 12-week circuit strength training program performed in a fitness facility could reach moderate aerobic intensity for a single session and explore the potential benefits, for individuals living with obesity. We reported that participants reached moderate intensity (40%≤ heart rate reserve), regardless of the indicator used to quantify the intensity. Finally, we tested if the same circuit strength training program offered online without specialized equipment could increase adherence to both components of physical activity guidelines (aerobics and muscle-strengthening) in men living with obesity compared with a control group after 46 weeks. Our results indicated that a 12-week online circuit program led a significant proportion of men living with obesity (36.8%) to adhere to both components of physical activity guidelines after 46 weeks. However, expected improvements in physiological outcomes were not observed. Altogether, this dissertation highlights some benefits of muscle-strengthening exercises for both men and women living with obesity.