Skip to main content

Effects of Obesity on Posture and Walking: Study Prior to and Following Surgically Induced Weight Loss



We investigate whether in severely obese people a marked weight loss may influence individual postural control and motor activities and then reverse the alterations caused by the extra load of body mass. Recent studies have shown that most severely obese patients have various degrees of impairment of postural control, but only a few studies considered those subjects before and after a marked weight loss.


Ten obese and ten subjects of average weight took part in our experiment. The subjects were requested to perform four different tasks. All obese patients repeated the tasks 1 year after undergoing bariatric surgery.


We have found differences between obese and normal-weight people in the execution of all four work tasks. However, a year after surgery, obese patients showed a change in the execution of only two tasks, keeping the same performance in the other two.


The excess of fat mass alters the execution of some tasks, as confirmed by the improvement obtained after weight loss. For other work tasks, we can hypothesize that the neurophysiological plasticity of the neuro-muscular system would require more time to adapt.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Runhaar J, Koes BW, Clockaerts S, et al. A systematic review on changed biomechanics of lower extremities in obese individuals: a possible role in development of osteoarthritis. Obes Rev. 2011;12:1071–82.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Wearing SC, Hennig EM, Byrne NM, et al. The impact of childhood obesity on musculoskeletal form. Obes Rev. 2006;7:209–18.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. McGraw B, McClenaghan BA, Williams HG, et al. Gait and postural stability in obese and non obese prepubertal boys. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2000;81:484–9.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Malatesta D, Vismara L, Menegoni F, et al. Effect of obesity onset on pendular energy transduction at spontaneous walking speed: Prader–Willi versus non syndromal obese Individuals. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013. doi:10.1002/oby.20455.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Browning RC, Kram R. Effects of obesity on the biomechanics of walking at different speeds. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39:1632–41.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Gilleard W, Smith T. Effect of obesity on posture and hip joint moments during a standing task, and trunk forward flexion motion. Int J Obes (Lond). 2007;31:267–71.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Felson DT. Does excess weight cause osteoarthritis and, if so, why? Ann Rheum Dis. 1996;55:668–70.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. Messier SP. Osteoarthritis of the knee and associated factors of age and obesity: effects on gait. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994;26:1446–52.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Błaszczyk JW, Cieślinska-Swider J, Plewa M, et al. Effects of excessive body weight on postural control. J Biomech. 2009;42(9):1295–300.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Błaszczyk JW, Plewa M, Cieślińska-Świder J, et al. Impact of excess body weight on walking at the preferred speed. Acta Neurobiol Exp. 2011;71:528–40.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Freedman Silvernail J, Milner CE, Thompson D, et al. The influence of body mass index and velocity on knee biomechanics during walking. Gait Posture. 2013;37:575–9.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Shultz SP, Browning RC, Schutz Y, et al. Childhood obesity and walking: guidelines and challenges. Int J Pediatr Obes. 2011;6(5–6):332–41.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Mignardot JB, Olivier I, Promayon E, et al. Obesity impact on the attentional cost for controlling. PLoS ONE. 2010;5(12):e14387.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. Sibella F, Galli M, Romei M, et al. Biomechanical analysis of sit-to-stand movement in normal and obese subjects. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2003;18:745–50.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Lerner ZF, Board WJ, Browning RC (2013) Effect of obesity on lower extremity muscle function during walking at two speeds. Gait Posture. 2014;39(3):975–84.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Cliff DP, Okely AD, Morgan PJ, et al. Movement skills and physical activity in obese children: randomized controlled trial. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43:90–100.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Morasso PG, Baratto L, Capra R, et al. Internal model in the control of posture. Neutral Netw. 1999;12:1173–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Maffiuletti NA, Agosti F, Proietti M, et al. Postural instability of extremely obese individuals improves after a body weight reduction program entailing specific balance training. J Endocrinol Investig. 2005;28:2–7.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Sartorio A, Lafortuna CL, Conte G, et al. Changes in motor control and muscle performance after a short-term body mass reduction program in obese subjects. J Endocrinol Investig. 2001;24:393–8.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We would like to thank the nursing staff and other volunteers who have offered to take part in the group of normal-weight subjects, Peterson Eleanor Ann for English-language review, and the Department of Surgery, Azienda Università Ospedale San Martino, Genova that provided the equipment (camera, tripod, and mat).

Conflict of Interest Disclosure Statements

Ponta Monica Laura: no conflict of interest.

Gozza Martina: no conflict of interest.

Giacinto Jessica: no conflict of interest.

Gradaschi Raffaella: no conflict of interest.

Adami Gian Franco: no conflict of interest.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. L. Ponta.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ponta, M.L., Gozza, M., Giacinto, J. et al. Effects of Obesity on Posture and Walking: Study Prior to and Following Surgically Induced Weight Loss. OBES SURG 24, 1915–1920 (2014).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Weight loss
  • Bariatric surgery
  • Posture
  • Biomechanical analysis
  • Mobility impairment
  • Musculoskeletal impact