The Journal of Primary Prevention

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 203–215 | Cite as

Impact of Physical Activity Interventions on Anthropometric Outcomes: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

  • Vicki S. Conn
  • Adam Hafdahl
  • Lorraine J. Phillips
  • Todd M. Ruppar
  • Jo-Ana D. Chase
Literature Review


Considerable research has tested physical activity (PA) interventions to prevent and treat overweight and obesity. This comprehensive meta-analysis synthesized the anthropometric effects of supervised exercise interventions and motivational interventions to increase PA. Eligible intervention studies included healthy participants with reported anthropometric outcomes [e.g., body mass index (BMI)]. Extensive searching located 54,642 potentially eligible studies. We included data from 535 supervised exercise and 283 motivational interventions in our syntheses, which used random-effects analyses. Exploratory moderator analyses used meta-analytic analogues of ANOVA and regression. We synthesized data from 20,494 participants in supervised exercise and 94,711 undergoing motivational interventions. The overall mean effect sizes (ES, d) for treatment versus control groups in supervised exercise interventions were 0.20 (treatment vs. control within-group comparison) and 0.22 (between-group comparison). The ES of 0.22 represents a post-intervention BMI of 26.7 kg/m2 for treatment participants relative to 27.7 kg/m2 for controls. The corresponding mean ES for motivational interventions was significantly smaller (d = 0.09 for between group, d = 0.10 for treatment vs. control within-group). Control group within-group comparisons revealed slightly worsening anthropometric outcomes during study participation (d = −0.03 to −0.04). Moderator analyses identified potential variables for future research. These findings document significant improvements in anthropometric effects from both supervised exercise and motivational interventions.


Exercise Weight Overweight Quantitative synthesis 



Financial support provided by a Grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01NR009656) to Vicki Conn, principal investigator. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Conflict of interest


Supplementary material

10935_2014_352_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1166 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vicki S. Conn
    • 1
  • Adam Hafdahl
    • 2
  • Lorraine J. Phillips
    • 1
  • Todd M. Ruppar
    • 1
  • Jo-Ana D. Chase
    • 1
  1. 1.S317 School of NursingUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.ARCH Statistical Consulting, LLCLawrenceUSA

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