New information on the effect of exercise on weight loss, weight management and glucose metabolism of severely obese persons of working age

A recent study conducted in Oulu indicates that exercise combined with lifestyle guidance at the very beginning of a weight loss programme enhances severely obese persons’ weight loss, weight management and glucose metabolism. Exercise should therefore be part of obesity treatment right from the start.  The study was conducted in cooperation between Oulu Deaconess Institute’s (ODL) exercise clinic, the University of Oulu and Oulu University Hospital, and it was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal.

120 severely obese persons of working age participated in a 2-year study, in which they were divided into three different experimental groups and a control group. All members of the experimental groups received similar personal guidance, which included 14 meetings with a personal trainer or a dietitian during the first year, and four meetings in the second year. In addition, two experimental groups took part in guided exercises over a period of three months, based on circuit training using light weights. One group participated in training as soon as the weight loss programme started, and the other group started at six months. The aim was to achieve target weight loss during the first year and maintain the weight during the second year.

All persons who received guidance lost a significant amount of weight and were able to maintain the weight throughout the monitoring period of two years. The most successful results were achieved by the ones participating in physical exercises, and, in particular, the ones who exercised from the very beginning of the programme. When monitored at the end of two years, the persons participating in physical exercises at the very beginning weighed 8.5kg (8.7%) less, and their waist circumference was 8.8cm shorter than at the beginning. Glucose and insulin metabolism showed positive changes in all experimental groups, but the changes were more significant among persons participating in exercise groups.

Obesity is a major public health problem.  Over 63% of Finnish women over the age of 30, and 72% of men are overweight. Abdominal obesity, in particular, is associated with several chronic diseases common in Finland, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This study confirms the crucial role of physical exercise also in severely obese persons’ weight loss and weight management. The model developed in the study provides new tools for health care operators.

Research article: Kaisu M. Kaikkonen, Saana S. Saltevo, Juha T. Korpelainen, Marja L. Vanhala, Jari J Jokelainen, Raija I. Korpelainen, Sirkka M. Keinänen-Kiukaanniemi. Effective Weight Loss and Maintenance by Intensive Start with Diet and Exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Dec 5. [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001855


Further information:

Kaisu Kaikkonen
The Center For Life Course Health Research, University of Oulu
Oulu Deaconess Institute’s (ODL) exercise clinic
Tel: 050 3125 611



Last updated: 4.3.2019