, Volume 57, Issue 5, pp 1001–1005 | Cite as

The effect of a single 2 h bout of aerobic exercise on ectopic lipids in skeletal muscle, liver and the myocardium

  • Julie Bucher
  • Marion Krüsi
  • Thomas Zueger
  • Michael Ith
  • Christoph Stettler
  • Peter Diem
  • Chris Boesch
  • Roland Kreis
  • Emanuel ChristEmail author
Short Communication



Ectopic lipids are fuel stores in non-adipose tissues (skeletal muscle [intramyocellular lipids; IMCL], liver [intrahepatocellular lipids; IHCL] and heart [intracardiomyocellular lipids; ICCL]). IMCL can be depleted by physical activity. Preliminary data suggest that aerobic exercise increases IHCL. Data on exercise-induced changes on ICCL is scarce. Increased IMCL and IHCL have been related to insulin resistance in skeletal muscles and liver, whereas this has not been documented in the heart. The aim of this study was to assess the acute effect of aerobic exercise on the flexibility of IMCL, IHCL and ICCL in insulin-sensitive participants in relation to fat availability, insulin sensitivity and exercise capacity.


Healthy physically active men were included. \( \overset{\cdot }{V}{\mathrm{O}}_{2 \max } \) was assessed by spiroergometry and insulin sensitivity was calculated using the HOMA index. Visceral and subcutaneous fat were separately quantified by MRI. Following a standardised dietary fat load over 3 days, IMCL, IHCL and ICCL were measured using MR spectroscopy before and after a 2 h exercise session at 50–60% of \( \overset{\cdot }{V}{\mathrm{O}}_{2 \max } \). Metabolites were measured during exercise.


Ten men (age 28.9 ± 6.4 years, mean ± SD; \( \overset{\cdot }{V}{\mathrm{O}}_{2 \max } \) 56.3 ± 6.4 ml kg−1 min−1; BMI 22.75 ± 1.4 kg/m2) were recruited. A 2 h exercise session resulted in a significant decrease in IMCL (−17 ± 22%, p = 0.008) and ICCL (−17 ± 14%, p = 0.002) and increase in IHCL (42 ± 29%, p = 0.004). No significant correlations were found between the relative changes in ectopic lipids, fat availability, insulin sensitivity, exercise capacity or changes of metabolites during exercise.


In this group, physical exercise decreased ICCL and IMCL but increased IHCL. Fat availability, insulin sensitivity, exercise capacity and metabolites during exercise are not the only factors affecting ectopic lipids during exercise.


Ectopic lipids Exercise capacity Insulin sensitivity Intracardiomyocellular lipids Intrahepatocellular lipids Intramyocellular lipids Visceral and subcutaneous fat mass 



Difference between basal and peak glucose concentrations during exercise


Exercise-related difference in ICCL, calculated as pre-exercise minus post-exercise levels


Exercise-related difference in IHCL, calculated as pre-exercise minus post-exercise levels


Exercise-related difference in IMCL, calculated as pre-exercise minus post-exercise levels


Difference between basal and peak NEFA concentrations during exercise, calculated as peak minus pre-exercise levels


Intracardiomyocellular lipids


Intrahepatocellular lipids


Intramyocellular lipids


Subcutaneous adipose tissue


Visceral adipose tissue



We thank all the participants for their commitment and enthusiasm.


This study was supported by the Swiss National Fund for Research. SNF-No. 320030-130331/1 (PI: E.C.) and SNF-No. 310000-118219/1 (PI: C.B.)

Duality of interest

The authors declare that there is no duality of interest associated with this manuscript.

Contribution statement

All authors made substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; and drafted the article or revised it critically for important intellectual content; all authors gave final approval of the version to be published. EC and RK are responsible for the integrity of the work as a whole.

Supplementary material

125_2014_3193_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (71 kb)
ESM Methods (PDF 71.1 kb)
125_2014_3193_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (129 kb)
ESM Table 1 (PDF 128 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Bucher
    • 1
  • Marion Krüsi
    • 1
  • Thomas Zueger
    • 1
  • Michael Ith
    • 2
  • Christoph Stettler
    • 1
  • Peter Diem
    • 1
  • Chris Boesch
    • 2
  • Roland Kreis
    • 2
  • Emanuel Christ
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Endocrinology, Diabetology and Clinical NutritionInselspital, University Hospital of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Research and Institute of Diagnostic, Interventional and Pediatric RadiologyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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