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Friday 28th October 2016

Gentle exercise helps obese boys

14th April 2008

Low intensity exercise equivalent to riding a bicycle along flat terrain may be of more use to obese children that more intense activity, new research in France has shown.


A study led by Gauthier Zunquin of the University of the Opal Coast in Dunkerque carried out exercise tests with groups of 30 thin or obese 12 year-old boys.

The 30 boys were asked to pedal on a stationary bike at a gradually building intensity. Their oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output were measured as a way of determining how much fat they were burning.

They found that the obese boys burned the most fat when working at a modest intensity, with the amount of fat-burning decreasing as the activity became more intense.

The normal-weight boys burned more fat at higher levels of intensity, however.

Published in the online edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the findings suggest that low-intensity exercise may be the best way for obese children to shed body fat.

At lower-intensity levels, thin and obese boys burned fat at a similar rate, but things changed at higher intensity level. Here, the fat-burning rate of the obese boys lagged behind that of thinner boys.

And the obese boys hit their maximum fat-burning potential at a fairly low intensity of exercise.

The team speculated that the disparity may have something to do with the types of muscle found in obese and then people. Muscles in obese people have more "fast-twitch" fibres, which burn carbohydrates, while those in thinner people have more "slow-twitch" fibres, which prefer to burn fat.

There may therefore be a limit to the amount of fat obese people can burn during higher-intensity workouts, they said.

Overall, the researchers suggest that obese children might benefit more from regular, moderate exercise than from more gruelling workouts.

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