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Is exercise less effective if you’re overweight?

Health experts at Loughborough University want to find out whether overweight and lean people respond to exercise in the same way.

Studies in animals suggest that being overweight can impair muscle growth, making exercise less effective. Loughborough’s scientists want to find out whether this is also the case for humans.

Muscle mass plays an important role in controlling blood sugars and preventing Type 2 Diabetes, as well as increasing resting metabolic rate, so is important for both fat loss and long-term health.

Preliminary tests at Loughborough have shown that muscles in overweight individuals haven’t adapted to their additional body weight, making them no stronger than their leaner counterparts.

This study will explore this further so that effective exercise and weight loss strategies can be developed for overweight and obese populations.   

Dr Carl Hulston in Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) is leading the study. He said:

“We want to understand whether there are underlying factors linked to obesity that stop exercise being as effective as it should be.

“It may be that once people reach a certain percentage body fat it is harder for them to grow muscle, which in turn impacts on their ability to exercise and lose weight.

“We hope this research will uncover important information to help address the current obesity epidemic.”

Researchers are looking to recruit men and women aged 18-40 with a BMI over 30, who typically take part in less than 90 minutes of exercise a week.

Participants will need to visit the Loughborough lab twice, to take part in some short resistance exercise training, and have measurements and some muscle biopsies taken. On completion of the study, volunteers will each be given 24 one-day passes to the Loughborough branch of LA fitness.   

The study is funded through the Society for Endocrinology.

Anyone interested in taking part should contact Dr Carl Hulston on 01509 226 449 or email

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