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The association between vigorous physical activities and fat deposition in male adolescents


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2000 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 392
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

DIONNE, I., N. ALMÉRAS, C. BOUCHARD, and A. TREMBLAY. The association between vigorous physical activities and fat deposition in male adolescents. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 392–395, 2000.

Purpose: The aim of this study was to investigate the association between participation in vigorous physical activities (VPA) and indicators of adiposity and fat distribution in male adolescents.

Methods: Subjects were classified on the basis of the number of reported 15-min periods over 3 d during which VPA were performed.

Results: Body weight, fat mass, body mass index, sum of six subcutaneous skinfolds, trunk and extremity skinfolds, and trunk to extremity skinfolds ratio (T/E ratio) were all significantly and inversely related to a higher VPA participation. Moreover, T/E ratio was significantly lower in the subgroup reporting a mean of 7.8 15-min periods of activity for 3 d (equivalent to a mean of 39 min·d−1) compared with subjects reporting no participation. This decrease in T/E ratio was more pronounced in subjects reporting a mean of 13.6 15-min periods of VPA for 3 d.

Conclusion: These observations reinforce the idea that excess abdominal fat accumulation can be prevented by regular participation in vigorous physical activities.

The last century has been characterized by a marked decrease in energy expenditure at work and for transportation (5). Even though the promotion of leisure time physical activity has increased, the constant increase in the prevalence of obesity suggests that total energy expenditure, at a given body weight, is still lower compared to a century ago.

Because voluntary physical activity energy expenditure is the most variable component of total energy expenditure (8), its implication in maintaining energy balance is of major importance. A low energy expenditure is associated with a positive energy balance that favors obesity (18). It has been suggested that the prevalence of obesity has been increasing over the last few decades because of the decrease in voluntary energy expenditure (5). Only between 1982 and 1992, the prevalence of obesity has augmented by 4% in men from Finland (7). In addition, Kuczmarski et al. (14) reported an increase in the prevalence of obesity of 8% and 9% in American men and women between 1984 and 1994. In Canada, 49% of adults were overweight (≥25 kg·m2) in 1995 (4). Unfortunately, the problem of obesity often starts at a younger age as indicated by a parallel increase of obesity in adolescents. In 1980, there was 30% more obese American teenagers than in 1960 (9). In addition, there was a tremendous increase of pronounced obesity of 64% in the same population during the same period of time (10).

It has been demonstrated that 70–80% of obese adolescents continue to be obese as adults (13). Because of the known health problems associated with obesity (17), it would be of primary importance to prevent adulthood obesity by diminishing the prevalence of this state in earlier years. Our experience has shown that practicing vigorous activities on a regular basis is associated with lower subcutaneous skinfold thicknesses and central fat deposition (21,23) by favoring a negative energy balance in adults (10). However, other studies conducted in male adolescents that did not consider the intensity of exercise found no correlation between the amount of time spent at physical activity participation and the sum of six skinfolds (12) or fatness (1).

In the present study, we thus focused on vigorous physical activity and investigated the impact of the time allocated to such activities on body composition and fat distribution indices in male adolescents. We compared fat mass, percent body fat, sum of 6 skinfolds, and trunk/extremity skinfolds ratio in subjects reporting no participation in vigorous physical activities to subjects reporting different amounts of time spent in vigorous physical activities measured using a 3-d physical activity record.

Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory, Division of Kinesiology, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Québec, CANADA, G1K 7P4

Submitted for publication May 1998.

Accepted for publication May 1999.

Address for correspondence: Angelo Tremblay, Physical Activity Sciences Laboratory, Division of Kinesiology, PEPS, Laval University, Ste-Foy, Québec, Canada, G1K 7P4. E-mail:

©2000The American College of Sports Medicine