Metabolites (May 2021)

Dynamics of Fat Oxidation from Sitting at Rest to Light Exercise in Inactive Young Humans

  • Julie Calonne,
  • Elie-Jacques Fares,
  • Jean-Pierre Montani,
  • Yves Schutz,
  • Abdul Dulloo,
  • Laurie Isacco

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 6
p. 334


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Societal erosion of daily life low-level physical activity has had a great influence on the obesity epidemic. Given that low fat oxidation is also a risk factor for obesity, we investigated, in a repeated measures design, the dynamics of fat oxidation from a resting state to a light-intensity leg cycling exercise (0–50 watts) in inactive, healthy young adults. Using indirect calorimetry, energy expenditure and the respiratory quotient (RQ) were assessed in a sitting posture at rest and during a cycling exercise in 35 subjects (20 women). The rate of perceived exhaustion (RPE) was assessed using the Borg Scale. During graded leg cycling, the mean RPE did not exceed values corresponding to the exercise being perceived as ‘light’. However, analysis of individual data at 50 watts revealed two distinct subgroups among the subjects: those having RPE values corresponding to the exercise being perceived as ‘very light to light’ and showing no increase in RQ relative to resting levels, as opposed to an increase in RQ in those who perceived the exercise as being ‘somewhat hard to hard’ (p < 0.001). Our study in inactive individuals showing that high fat oxidation was maintained during ‘light-perceived’ physical activity reinforced the potential importance of light physical activity in the prevention of obesity.