fbpx Skip to content

Research: How to Maintain Weight Loss

Want to help your clients keep off the weight they’ve lost? Then consider the findings from this new study:

Hunter, G.R., et al. 2015. Exercise training and energy expenditure following weight loss. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 47 (9), 1950–57.


Cardiovascular exercise and resistance training are essential to successful weight management. However, there is a complex, unclear relationship between exercise training during weight loss and free-living energy expenditure after weight loss (Hunter et al. 2015).

Some earlier studies have suggested that people move less after weight loss, while others have found no change. This unsolved mystery motivated Hunter and fellow researchers to investigate the effects of (1) aerobic exercise, (2) resistance training and (3) no exercise during a low-calorie weight loss program, and to determine the impact of each on activity-related energy expenditure and nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), often called spontaneous movement.

Study Methods

The study’s 140 volunteers were overweight women aged 20–44; none had exercised for a year, and each had a body mass index between 27 and 30. After a 4-week weight stabilization period (with daily meals provided in weeks 3 and 4), the women were divided into three groups:

  • aerobic-and-diet training: weight loss with aerobic exercise three times per week
  • resistance-and-diet training: weight loss with resistance exercise three times per week
  • control: weight loss with no exercise training

All the women received an 800-kilocalorie-per-day diet until their BMI fell below 25, which took approximately 16 weeks for all 3 groups. The furnished diet’s macronutrient breakdown was 20%–22% fat, 20%–22% protein and 56%–58% carbohydrate.

Aerobic Training

The aerobic training group did supervised indoor walking and/or jogging, starting at 67% of maximum heart rate (MHR) for 20 minutes. MHR was determined from a graded maximal aerobic capacity exercise test. Cardiovascular duration and intensity training increased gradually week by week. By the 8th week of training, the women were doing 40 minutes of aerobic exercise at 80% of their MHR, and they maintained this level for the rest of the 16-week study.

Resistance Training

The resistance training group completed a 1-week familiarization of all of the exercises, which included leg extension, leg curl, squat, biceps curl, triceps extension, latissimus dorsi pull-down, bench press, military press, low-back extension and bent-leg sit-up.

All the women then completed 1-repetition-maximum (1-RM) testing to determine the appropriate percent of lifting capacity for each major exercise group. They began with 1 set of 10 repetitions at 65% of their 1-RM, increasing gradually each week until they were training at 80% of their 1-RM. On week 5, they began completing 2 sets of 10 repetitions at 80% of their 1-RM (which they maintained for the rest of the study) and rested 2 minutes between sets. Muscular strength was reevaluated every 5 weeks, and loads were adjusted to sustain the 80% of 1-RM exercise intensity for major exercises.

No Exercise

The no-exercise group served as the control for this study. Participants consumed an 800-kcal-per-day diet and did no exercise.

Results and Discussion

All the women in this 16-week study lost an average of 25 pounds. Total daily energy expenditure decreased by 63 kcal per day in the aerobic-and-diet training group and fell by 259 kcal per day in the no-exercise group. The resistance-and-diet training group increased total daily energy expenditure by 63 kcal per day.

Activity-related energy expenditure increased by 13 kcal per day and 109 kcal per day for the aerobic training and resistance training groups, respectively. In the no-exercise group, activity-related energy expenditure decreased by 142 kcal per day (thus showing that people start to move less during low-kilocalorie interventions). With NEAT, the aerobic training group showed a decrease of 87 kcal per day, while the resistance training group had an increase of 61 kcal per day. The no-exercise group had a decrease of 143 kcal per day for NEAT. The dramatic drop in total daily energy expenditure in the no-exercise group, as contrasted with the aerobic-and-diet and resistance-and-diet training groups (see Table 1), is very meaningful information for personal trainers to show to their clients.

For more results and discussion, please see “New Clues to Prevent Weight Regain” in the online IDEA Library or in the January 2016 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at (800) 999-4332, ext. 7

Len Kravitz, PhD

Len Kravitz, PhD is a professor and program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico where he recently received the Presidential Award of Distinction and the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. In addition to being a 2016 inductee into the National Fitness Hall of Fame, Dr. Kravitz was awarded the Fitness Educator of the Year by the American Council on Exercise. Just recently, ACSM honored him with writing the 'Paper of the Year' for the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal.

Related Articles