Maintenance of cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and a physically active lifestyle after structured exercise interventions in individuals with overweight and obesity: A mixed-method follow-up study

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Objectives: The aim of this mixed-method study was to explore maintenance of physical activity and health effects one year after completion of exercise interventions in transport and leisure-time domains of everyday life. We hypothesised that routinisation of active commuting would lead to better maintenance of physical activity and health effects compared with leisure-time exercise. Study design: Mixed-methods follow-up study. Methods: Individuals with overweight/obesity, who completed a 6-month exercise intervention (active commuting by bike (BIKE), moderate (MOD) or vigorous intensity leisure-time exercise (VIG)), were after one year invited to participate in a follow-up visit which included measurements of cardiorespiratory fitness during an incremental bicycle test and body composition using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Variability in maintenance practices was assessed in a sub-sample of participants who experienced the greatest improvements (‘VO2peak improvers’) and reductions (‘VO2peak reducers’), respectively, in cardiorespiratory fitness. Semi-structured interviews were conducted (15–30 min) and analysed using systematic text condensation to identify barriers and facilitators associated with maintenance of physical activity. Results: Out of the 74 participants completing an exercise intervention, 46 (62%) completed follow-up (BIKE: n = 14; MOD: n = 14; VIG: n = 18). Improvements in VO2peak and reductions in fat mass were maintained in BIKE and VIG. Body weight decreased in BIKE and fat free mass increased in VIG. Changes in VO2peak and anthropometry at follow-up did not differ between BIKE and MOD + VIG. Fat mass decreased and recreational physical activity increased in ‘VO2peak improvers’. Findings from the interviews suggested that self-monitoring, collective exercising, and new personal exercise challenges facilitate maintenance of a physically active lifestyle. Conclusion: Completion of a structured exercise intervention consisting of 6 months of active commuting or vigorous intensity leisure-time exercise was associated with long-term maintenance of improvements in VO2peak and body composition, whereas moderate intensity leisure-time exercise was not. In contrast to our hypothesis, active commuting was not associated with better maintenance of physical activity and health effects after the intervention compared with leisure-time exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100293
JournalPublic Health in Practice
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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© 2022 The Authors

    Research areas

  • Exercise, Exercise maintenance, Follow-up, Obesity, Overweight, Physical activity

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