Original Article

This is an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. Nature Research are providing this early version of the manuscript as a service to our customers. The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting and a proof review before it is published in its final form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers apply.

Effects of active commuting and leisure-time exercise on fat loss in women and men with overweight and obesity: A randomized controlled trial




Aerobic exercise is recommended for weight management but energy balance is often less negative than predicted from exercise energy expenditure (ExEE).


To examine effects of active commuting and leisure-time exercise on fat loss in women and men with overweight and obesity.


We randomized 130 younger, physically inactive women and men with overweight and obesity (body mass index: 25–35 kg/m2) to 6 months of habitual lifestyle (CON, n=18), active commuting (BIKE, n=35), or leisure-time exercise of moderate (MOD, 50% VO2peak reserve, n=39) or vigorous intensity (VIG, 70% VO2peak reserve, n=38). The primary outcome was change in fat mass measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry which was analyzed intention-to-treat. Accumulated energy balance was calculated based on changes in body composition, and ExEE was calculated based on heart rate monitoring during exercise.


Testing at 3 and 6 months was completed by 95 and 90 participants, respectively. Fat mass was reduced after 3 and 6 months in BIKE (3 months: -3.6 [-5.5; -1.7] kg (mean [95% CI]); 6 months: −4.2 [−6.6; −1.9] kg; both: P<0.001), MOD (3 months: −2.2 [−3.9; −0.4] kg; 6 months: −2.6 [−4.8; −0.5] kg, both: P<0.02), and VIG (3 months: −3.4 [−5.2; −1.7] kg; 6 months: −4.5 [−6.6; −2.3] kg; both: P<0.001) compared with CON. Furthermore, fat loss was greater in VIG compared with MOD (6 months: −1.8 [−3.6; −0.1] kg, P=0.043). Based on the ExEE and the accumulated energy balance MOD compensated for the ExEE (77 [48; 106] %) but not BIKE (38 [−18; 95] %) and VIG (21 [−14; 55] %).


A meaningful fat loss was obtained by 6 months of active commuting and leisure-time exercise, but fat loss was greater with vigorous compared to moderate intensity exercise. Active commuting is an alternative to leisure-time exercise in the management of overweight and obesity. The trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01962259 (main trial) and NCT01973686 (energy metabolism sub-study).

  • Subscribe to International Journal of Obesity for full access:



Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.

Author information

Author notes

    • J S Quist
    •  & M Rosenkilde

    These authors contributed equally to this work.


  1. Department of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    • J S Quist
    • , M Rosenkilde
    • , M B Petersen
    • , A S Gram
    •  & B Stallknecht
  2. Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

    • A Sjödin


  1. Search for J S Quist in:

  2. Search for M Rosenkilde in:

  3. Search for M B Petersen in:

  4. Search for A S Gram in:

  5. Search for A Sjödin in:

  6. Search for B Stallknecht in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J S Quist.