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Resistance exercise reduces liver fat and its mediators in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease independent of weight loss
  1. Kate Hallsworth1,2,3,
  2. Gulnar Fattakhova2,
  3. Kieren G Hollingsworth1,2,
  4. Christian Thoma1,2,3,
  5. Sarah Moore1,2,3,
  6. Roy Taylor1,2,
  7. Christopher P Day1,2,
  8. Michael I Trenell1,2,3
  1. 1Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Ageing and Age-related Disease, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3MRC Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michael Trenell, MoveLab, 4th Floor William Leech Building, Newcastle University, NE1 7RU, UK; michael.trenell{at}


Background Lifestyle interventions focusing on weight loss remain the cornerstone of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) management. Despite this, the weight losses achieved in research trials are not easily replicated in the clinic and there is an urgent need for therapies independent of weight loss. Aerobic exercise is not well sustained and the effectiveness of the better tolerated resistance exercise upon liver lipid and mediators of liver lipid has not been assessed.

Methods Sedentary adults with clinically defined NAFLD were assigned to 8 weeks of resistance exercise (n=11) or continued normal treatment (n=8).

Results 8 weeks of resistance exercise elicited a 13% relative reduction in liver lipid (14.0±9.1 vs 12.2±9.0; p<0.05). Lipid oxidation (submaximal RQ ∆ −0.020±0.010 vs −0.004±0.003; p<0.05), glucose control (−12% vs +12% change AUC; p<0.01) and homeostasis model assessment insulin resistance (5.9±5.9 to 4.6±4.6 vs 4.7±2.1 to 5.1±2.5; p<0.05) were all improved. Resistance exercise had no effect on body weight, visceral adipose tissue volume, or whole body fat mass (p>0.05).

Conclusion This is the first study to demonstrate that resistance exercise specifically improves NAFLD independent of any change in body weight. These data demonstrate that resistance exercise may provide benefit for the management for non-alcoholic fatty liver, and the long-term impact of this now requires evaluation.

  • Liver disease
  • physical activity
  • glucose control
  • body composition
  • fat oxidation
  • diabetes mellitus
  • fatty liver
  • glucose metabolism
  • lipid oxidation
  • obesity

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  • Funding The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no Health-F2-2009-241762, for the project FLIP; the Medical Research Council; the UK National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre on Ageing and Age-Related Diseases and Diabetes UK.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the County Durham and Tees Valley 2 Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.