Original Article

International Journal of Obesity (2008) 32, 1016–1027; doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.5; published online 19 February 2008

The effect of high-intensity progressive resistance training on adiposity in children: a randomized controlled trial

Trial Registration: Australian Clinical Trials Registry (ACTR), ACTRN012605000102673, http://www.actr.org.au.

A C Benson1,2, M E Torode2 and M A Fiatarone Singh2,3,4

  1. 1Discipline of Exercise Sciences, The School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
  2. 2Faculty of Health Sciences, The School of Exercise & Sport Science, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  4. 4Hebrew SeniorLife and Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA

Correspondence: Dr AC Benson, Discipline of Exercise Sciences, The School of Medical Sciences, RMIT University, Plenty Road, Bundoora, VIC 3083, Australia. E-mail: acbkiwi@clear.net.nz

Received 21 April 2007; Revised 17 December 2007; Accepted 21 December 2007; Published online 19 February 2008.





High-intensity progressive resistance training (PRT) improves adiposity and metabolic risk in adults, but has not been investigated in children within a randomized controlled trial (RCT).



We hypothesized that high-intensity PRT (8 weeks, twice a week) would decrease central adiposity in children, as assessed via waist circumference.

Methods Design/Setting/Participants:


Concealed randomization stratified by age and gender was used to allocate rural New Zealand school students to the wait-list control or PRT group.



Participants were prescribed two sets (eight repetitions per set) of 11 exercises targeting all the major muscle groups at high intensity.

Primary Outcome:


Waist circumference; secondary outcomes included whole body fat, muscular fitness (one repetition maximum), cardiorespiratory fitness (peak oxygen consumption during a treadmill test), lipids, insulin sensitivity and fasting glucose.



Of the 78 children (32 girls and 46 boys; mean age 12.2(1.3) years), 51% were either overweight (33%) or obese (18%). High-intensity PRT significantly improved waist circumference (mean change PRT −0.8 (2.2)cm vs +0.5 (1.7)cm control; F=7.59, P=0.008), fat mass (mean change PRT +0.2 (1.4)kg vs +1.0 (1.2)kg control; F=6.00, P=0.017), percent body fat (mean change PRT –0.3 (1.8)% vs +1.2 (2.1)% control; F=9.04, P=0.004), body mass index (mean change PRT −0.01 (0.8)kgm−2 vs +0.4 (0.7)kgm−2 control; F=6.02, P=0.017), upper body strength (mean change PRT+11.6(6.1)kg vs +2.9(3.7)kg control; F=48.6, P<0.001) and lower body strength (mean change PRT +42.9(26.6)kg vs +28.5(26.6)kg control; F=4.72, P=0.034) compared to the control group. Waist circumference decreased the most in those with the greatest baseline relative strength (r=−0.257, P=0.036), and greatest relative (r=−0.400, P=0.001) and absolute (r=0.340, P=0.006) strength gains during the intervention.



Isolated high-intensity PRT significantly improves central and whole body adiposity in association with muscle strength in normal-weight and overweight children. The clinical relevance and sustainability of these changes in adiposity should be addressed in future long-term studies.


resistance training, children, adolescent, waist circumference, RCT

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