Increased physical activity does not improve obesity-induced decreases in muscle quality in zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Frank Seebacher, Rob James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Obesity has a negative effect on muscle contractile function, and the effects of obesity are not reversed by weight loss. It is therefore important to determine how muscle function can be restored, and exercise is the most promising approach. We tested the hypothesis (in zebrafish, Danio rerio) that moderate aerobic exercise (forced swimming for 30 min/day, raising metabolic rates to at least twice resting levels) will alleviate the negative effects of obesity on muscle function. We allocated zebrafish randomly to experimental treatments in a fully factorial design with diet treatment [three levels: lean control, diet-induced obese, obese followed by weight loss (obese-lean)], and exercise (exercise and sedentary control) as independent factors. Treatments were conducted for 10 wk, and we measured locomotor performance, isolated muscle mechanics, and myosin heavy chain composition. Obesity led to decreased muscle force production per unit area (P = 0.01), and slowed muscle contraction (P = 0.004) and relaxation rates (P = 0.02). These effects were not reversible by weight loss or exercise. However, at the level implemented in our experimental animals, neither diet nor exercise affected swimming performance or myosin heavy chain concentrations. The moderate levels of exercise we implemented therefore are not sufficient to reverse the effects of obesity on muscle function, and higher intensity or a combination of modes of exercise may be necessary to improve muscle quality during obesity and following weight loss.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Obesity can have a negative effect on muscle function and thereby compromise mobility. Even though aerobic exercise has many physiological benefits in obese and normal-weight individuals, we show that in zebrafish aerobic exercise does not improve obesity-induced reductions in muscle contractile function. A combination between different modes of exercise may be more effective than aerobic exercise alone.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1802-1808
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number6
Early online date12 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2019

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  • biomechanics
  • muscle
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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