The Implications for Exercise on Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is defined as an excess accumulation of fat around the liver organ of greater than 5% in the absence of excessive alcohol consumption. It is the most common cause of chronic liver disease and strongly correlated with overweight and obesity. The fat surrounding the organ is associated with inflammation leading to fibrosis and ultimately destruction of the liver’s cells and liver function.

In a study testing for NAFLD in 105 obese bariatric surgery patients found that 96% of the patients had NAFLD, along with high blood pressure and insulin resistance. This is a big problem with the prevalence of obesity in our society. We are continuously discovering the implications of our fat and specifically visceral fat leading to organ failure and multiple comorbidities. So, if you have been told you have high amounts of visceral fat it’s time to listen in or plan for an organ transplant.

There is hope! You can directly improve your liver function through exercise. It has been shown that the strongest benefits for the liver occur with weight loss. 7-10% reduction in body weight leads to a significant reduction in fat and damaging inflammation. It is also stated that regular exercise alone can significantly reduce liver fat without significant weight loss or changes in body comp.

Where to start? The guidelines state to obtain 30min or more of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on 5 days of the week or 20 mins or more of vigorous aerobic exercise on 3 days of the week. If you need guidance, an accredited exercise physiologist can help. Contact the team at Absolute Balance today for more information.

Taylor Downes

Exercise Consultant

(B.Sc. Sport & Exercise B.Ed. Human Movement (ESSAM))

Shelley E Keating, Jacob George, Nathan A Johnson. (2015) The benefits of exercise for patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology 9:10, pages 1247-1250.

Dixon, J. B., Bhathal, P. S., & O’Brien, P. E. (2001). Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: Predictors of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis and liver fibrosis in the severely obese. Gastroenterology, 121(1), 91.