The Effect of Chronic Exercise Training on Leptin: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials



Leptin is a hormone associated with satiety, lipid oxidation, energy expenditure, and energy homeostasis. To date, the current body of research examining the effect of chronic exercise training on leptin has yielded inconsistent results.


The purpose of this meta-analysis was to provide a quantitative estimate of the magnitude of change in leptin levels following participation in exercise interventions lasting ≥ 2 weeks.


All studies included were peer-reviewed and published in English. To be included, studies randomized human participants to an exercise training group or non-exercise comparison group for an exercise training intervention. Leptin levels were measured at baseline, during, and/or after completion of the exercise training program. Random-effects models were used to aggregate a mean effect size (ES) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and identify potential moderators.


Seventy-two randomized controlled trials met the inclusion criteria and resulted in 107 effects (n = 3826). The mean ES of 0.24 (95% CI 0.16–0.32, p < 0.0001) indicated a decrease in leptin following an exercise training program. A decrease in %Fat (β = − 0.07, p < 0.01) was associated with a decrease in leptin after accounting for the type of control group (β = − 0.38, p < 0.0001) used in each study.


These results suggest that engaging in chronic exercise training (≥ 2 weeks) is associated with a decrease in leptin levels for individuals regardless of age and sex. However, a greater decrease in leptin occurred with a decreased percentage of body fat.

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Author information




MVF conceptualized and designed the study, coded and analyzed effects, carried out the initial analysis, drafted the initial manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted. EDH coded and analyzed effects, reviewed and revised the initial manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted. CLW-R coded and analyzed effects, reviewed and revised the initial manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted. TDW coded and analyzed effects, reviewed and revised the initial manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted. WCD coded and analyzed effects, reviewed and revised the initial manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

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Correspondence to Michael V. Fedewa.

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Data Availability Statement

Data used for these analyses are available in a public repository through the University of Alabama, which does not issue datasets with DOIs (non-mandated deposition). The data can be downloaded directly from in SPSS or Microsoft Excel file format.


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Michael V. Fedewa, Elizabeth D. Hathaway, Christie L. Ward-Ritacco, Tyler D. Williams, and Ward C. Dobbs declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Fedewa, M.V., Hathaway, E.D., Ward-Ritacco, C.L. et al. The Effect of Chronic Exercise Training on Leptin: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Sports Med 48, 1437–1450 (2018).

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