Interventions promoting physical activity among obese populations: a meta-analysis considering global effect, long-term maintenance, physical activity indicators and dose characteristics


PG Sarrazin or DO Trouilloud, Laboratoire Sport et Environnement Social, Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble 1, BP53, 38041 Grenoble CEDEX 9, France. E-mail: or


As the benefits that regular physical activity (PA) have on obesity are well known, many interventions promote active lifestyle adoption among obese populations. This meta-analysis aims to determine (i) the global effect that interventions promoting PA among obese populations have on their PA behaviour; (ii) variations in the effect of interventions depending on the PA indicator used; (iii) the programme's dose characteristics and (iv) maintenance of the intervention effects after the intervention has ended. A comprehensive search through databases and review articles was completed. Forty-six studies met the inclusion criteria. Calculations of effect size (Cohen's d) and a moderator analysis were conducted. The meta-analysis showed that interventions globally have an impact on the PA behaviour of obese populations (d = 0.44; 95% CI = 0.31, 0.57). The moderator analysis revealed that interventions of less than 6 months reported significantly larger effects than longer interventions. Moreover, the interventions had a stronger impact on the number of steps and the PA indexes (i.e. composite scores reflecting PA practice) than on other PA indicators. Finally, the analysis revealed that interventions succeed in maintaining PA behaviour after the intervention is over. However, relatively few studies addressed this issue (n = 9). Despite global positive effects, further research is needed to determine the optimal dose for interventions and to evaluate the maintenance of intervention effects.