The benefits of exercise extend well beyond losing pounds. Research supports being active for many reasons—including the link between exercise and liver health.
Japanese researchers from the University of Tsukuba found that consistent participation in an exercise program under the guidance of a fitness professional helped people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) to reduce liver inflammation, improve liver function and preserve muscle mass, regardless of weight loss.
The investigators compared a dietary restriction group with an aerobic exercise group. By the end of the 3-month program, participants in the exercise group significantly had improved multiple markers of liver health, independent of any drop in weight.
What is significant about these findings is that historically the clinical recommendation for people with NAFLD has been to lose weight, not to increase physical activity. Exercise has been recommended purely to support weight loss.
“Our research shows how exercise prevents liver steatosis and fibrosis in NAFLD and clarifies that this benefit is compounded by preservation of muscle mass and is independent of weight changes,” said principal investigator Junichi Shoda, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Tsukuba. “Patients on exercise programs may become demotivated and drop out if they do not experience significant weight loss . . . patients at risk for NASH [nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, the result of progressing NAFLD] should be encouraged to persevere with moderate to high intensity exercise regardless of whether or not they lose weight.”
The findings are available in JHEP Reports (2021; 3 , 100253).
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