The psychological effects of strength exercises in people who are overweight or obese: a systematic review

Gill A Ten Hoor*, Gerjo Kok, Gjalt-Jorn Y Peters, Tim Frissen, Annemie M W J Schols, Guy Plasqui

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Overweightness and obesity represent a high burden on well-being and society. Strength training has positive effects on body composition and metabolic health for people who are overweight or obese. The evidence for psychological effects of strength exercises is unclear.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to assess the psychological effects of strength exercises for people who are overweight or obese.

METHODS: Relevant literature was identified by use of the PubMed and PsycINFO databases. For each study, effect sizes and corresponding variance estimates were extracted or calculated for the main effects of strength exercises on psychological outcomes.

RESULTS: Seventeen studies were included. There was almost no overlap among the various measures of psychological constructs. The constructs were ordered into eight broad categories. Meta-analytical techniques revealed substantial heterogeneity in effect sizes, and combined with the low number of effect size estimates for each outcome measure, this precluded meta-analysis. Organization of the data showed that the evidence base so far does not show convincing effects of strength training on psychological outcome measures. Some weak effects emerged on self-efficacy, self-esteem, inhibition, and psychological disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression). No additional or comparable effects to other interventions were found for mood, outcome expectations, quality of life, and stress.

DISCUSSION: The main finding of this review is that despite a strong theoretical basis for expecting positive effects of strength training on psychological outcomes, the literature shows a large gap in this area. The existing research does not show a clear picture: some positive results might exist, but there is a strong need to accumulate more evidence before drawing conclusions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2069–2081
Number of pages13
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number10
Early online date1 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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