JUN 10, 2020 9:20 PM PDT

Aerobic Fitness Levels Associated with Weight Loss

WRITTEN BY: Lawrence Renna

According to a recent study presented at the American College of Physicians (ACP) Internal Medicine Meeting, improvements in aerobic capacity are associated with more significant weight loss.  

The researchers sought to test the hypothesis that an improved maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) would result in more significant weight loss maintenance. The assumption was tested on participants who partook in the Michigan Weight Management Program.  

The program consisted of an intensive three-phase lifestyle change program. The initial weight loss was targeted by instructing the participants to consume a low-calorie diet, consisting of total meal replacement shakes. Next, a gradual transition was incorporated in which participants consumed a low-calorie food-based diet and continually visited a physician and a dietitian to support changes. Also, mild to moderate physical activity was encouraged during the first two phases of the program. Next, more vigorous physical exercise was promoted during the last stage.

Erin O’Keefe, a medical student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said:  

“VO2 max is a measure of aerobic capacity or fitness measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight [using] a heart rate monitor and oxygen mask while on a stationary bike or a treadmill.” She  further said, “Research has not clearly elucidated the ways in which physical activity and modification of the VO2 max impacts long-term weight loss.”  

The observational study was conducted using the data from 115 individuals between the ages of 20 and 70. All of the participants in the study had a body mass index (BMI) greater than 32 kg/m2 and a health condition that was associated with being overweight; for example, type 2 diabetes. The participants’ weight and VO2 max levels were measured at the onset of the study and after two years of participation in the weight loss program.  

The results of the study were:  

VO2 Max Results from Michigan Weight Management Program
Group Improved VO2 max Maintained VO2 max
Men (59 total) 39% 50%
Women (56 total) 34% 55%

An increase in VO2 max showed a statically significant association with percent weight loss was in women between 40 to 49 years, and in men between 50 to 59 years.  

O’Keefe concluded:

“We cannot conclude causality in this study. But we do know that diet and physical activity are strongly integrated behaviors, and it is encouraging that patients are simultaneously losing weight and getting fitter.”  


Sources: Healio.com 

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Hello! I am a scientist currently living in Southern California, although I am originally from the east coast. I received my B.S. in Chemistry from Northeastern University in 2012, and my Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I also had a postdoctoral appointment at the University of California, Irvine. I have written 25+ peer-reviewed articles, several patents, and one book chapter. I am a reviewer for scientific manuscripts, and a freelance editor and writer. Outside of science, I enjoy spending time with my family, training Jiu-Jitsu, and baking sourdough bread. I am happy to be writing for LabRoots.
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