Effect of diet with or without exercise on abdominal fat in postmenopausal women - A randomised trial

Willemijn A. Van Gemert, Petra H. Peeters, Anne M. May, Adriaan J.H. Doornbos, Sjoerd G. Elias, Job Van Der Palen, Wouter Veldhuis, Maaike Stapper, Jantine A. Schuit, Evelyn M. Monninkhof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: We assessed the effect of equivalent weight loss with or without exercise on (intra-) abdominal fat in postmenopausal women in the SHAPE-2 study. Methods: The SHAPE-2 study is a three-armed randomised controlled trial conducted in 2012-2013 in the Netherlands. Postmenopausal overweight women were randomized to a diet (n = 97), exercise plus diet (n = 98) or control group (n = 48). Both intervention groups aimed for equivalent weight loss (6-7%) following a calorie-restricted diet (diet group) or a partly supervised intensive exercise programme (4 h per week) combined with a small caloric restriction (exercise plus diet group). Outcomes after 16 weeks are amount and distribution of abdominal fat, measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with the use of the three-point IDEAL Dixon method. Results: The diet and exercise plus diet group lost 6.1 and 6.9% body weight, respectively. Compared to controls, subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat reduced significantly with both diet (- 12.5% and - 12.0%) and exercise plus diet (- 16.0% and - 14.6%). Direct comparison between both interventions revealed that the reduction in subcutaneous fat was statistically significantly larger in the group that combined exercise with diet: an additional 10.6 cm 2 (95%CI -18.7; - 2.4) was lost compared to the diet-only group. Intra-abdominal fat loss was not significantly larger in the exercise plus diet group (- 3.8 cm 2 , 95%CI -9.0; 1.3). Conclusions: We conclude that weight loss of 6-7% with diet or with exercise plus diet reduced both subcutaneous and intra-abdominal fat. Only subcutaneous fat statistically significantly reduced to a larger extent when exercise is combined with a small caloric restriction. Trial register: NCT01511276 (clinicaltrials.gov), prospectively registered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number174
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2019


This work was supported by the Dutch Cancer Society [KWF: UU 2010–4843] and the Dutch Pink Ribbon Foundation [PR110032, PR110039]. The support from the sponsors was unconditional, and the data collection, design, management, analysis, interpretation and reporting were performed without their interference. The role of the sponsors was limited to approving the scientific proposal of the study, covering salary costs of study personnel, costs for the data collection and costs for biochemical analyses.

FundersFunder number
Dutch Cancer Society
Pink Ribbon FoundationPR110032, PR110039
KWF KankerbestrijdingUU 2010–4843


    • Exercise
    • Intra-abdominal fat
    • Subcutaneous fat
    • Weight loss


    Dive into the research topics of 'Effect of diet with or without exercise on abdominal fat in postmenopausal women - A randomised trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this