Background: The aim of present study was to compare the effects of different aerobic exercise intensities and energy expenditures on the body composition of sedentary obese college students in Taiwan. Methods: Forty-eight obese participants [body mass index (BMI) ≥ 27 kg/m2, age 18-26 years] were randomized into four equal groups (n = 12): light-intensity training group (LITG), 40%-50% heart rate reserve (HRR); middle-intensity training group (MITG), 50%-70% HRR; high-intensity training group (HITG), 70%-80% HRR; and control group (CG). The aerobic exercise training program was conducted for 60 min per day on a treadmill 3 days per week for 12 weeks. All participant anthropometric data, blood biochemical parameters, and health-related physical fitness components were measured at baseline and after 12 weeks. Results: At baseline, the anthropometric indices did not differ significantly among the four groups (p > 0.05). After 12-week exercise intervention, the HITG and MITG had significantly more changes in body weight, waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) than the LITG. The changes in BMI and body fat percentage differed among all four groups (p < 0.05). Conclusions: A 12-week high-intensity exercise intervention with high energy expenditure can considerably reduce body weight, body fat, WC, WHR, and WHtR, whereas a light-intensity exercise intervention can significantly reduce body weight and body fat. Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials TPECTR09831410900 , registered on 24th Dec 2009.
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