Obesity in young women and girls reduces aerobic performance by 25%

This research was carried out at The Brompton Hospital in London in the paediatric department of Professor Simon Godfrey. It showed that the the aerobic performance measured as maximum oxygen uptake was surprisingly the same for obese and non-obese girls when expressed as an absolute value (litres/min). Thus they appeared to be just as fit as their non-obese age-matched peers.
However when the aerobic performance was expressed as the maximum oxygen uptake per kilogram of body weight that had to be moved when running or walking then the obese subjects show a reduced performance of nearly 25% because of the extra weight of fat that they had to move.
Journal of Applied Physiology. 1975 Mar;38(3):373-6

A study of exercise performance was carried out in 17 obese girls and young adults. During submaximal steady-state bicycle exercise oxygen intake (Vo2) for a given work output (W) was raised in obese subjects but minute ventilation at a fixed carbon dioxide output, gas exchange, blood gases, and cardiac output at a given VO2 were similar to the values previously found for normals. In obese subjects high levels of VO2 for fixed W were also obtained on the treadmill but when these were standardized for body weight (unlike the bicycle test) it was shown that the obese girls and women exercised within the normal (expected) range of aerobic energy expenditure.

During maximal performance the absolute VO2 max was the same in obese and nonobese subjects but for a given body weight, lean body mass, and leg muscle (plus) bone volume, VO2max was reduced by 23.8, 16.3, and 24.5% respectively, in the former group. It was concluded that obesity though having minimal affect on responses to submaximal exercise is nevertheless associated with a marked reduction in physiological performance at or near maximal effort.


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