The results of exercise programmes designed to reduce body fat are disappointing. However, the reporting of weight loss as mean values disguises those individuals who do lose significant amounts of fat. Why some participants produce significant exercise-induced fat loss whereas others lose little or increase fat stores is likely to be an outcome of a range of behavioural (e.g. sleep deprivation, caloric intake), inherited (e.g. muscle fibre type, gender) and physiological (e.g. hyperinsulinaemia, hypothyroidism) factors. The following review highlights possible factors involved in weight loss and discusses how individual differences may determine the extent of weight loss after an exercise intervention. Finally, implications for the treatment and prevention of obesity are discussed.