Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has released world-first guidelines for the fight against metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD), a highly prevalent chronic disease that affects 1 in 4 adults globally.
Led by Australian researchers, with support from the United Kingdom and USA, the clinically focused tool, ‘Exercise in the Management of MAFLD in Adults: A Position Statement from Exercise & Sports Science Australia’, states that exercise should be a primary treatment for MAFLD.
MAFLD is linked with the development of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, progressive liver disease and liver cancer.
Leading author, ESSA member Dr Shelley Keating, is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist with 16 years clinical experience.
“These world-first guidelines include referral pathways, assessment and management priorities, exercise prescription recommendations, action planning, and considerations for clinicians working with people with MAFLD,” said Dr Keating.
“The key message for patients and the medical profession is that exercise should be a primary treatment for MAFLD, yet at least 80 per cent of people with MAFLD are not sufficiently active,” she said.
“Regular exercise can benefit liver health as well as cardiometabolic health, that can occur without high levels of weight loss. While there are barriers to the uptake and maintenance of long-term exercise, there are opportunities to support people with MAFLD to exercise regularly for the benefit of their health and wellbeing.”
As with other populations with a chronic condition, it is important that exercise programs should be individualised, prescribed and delivered by Accredited Exercise Physiologists who are the experts in clinical exercise.
ESSA CEO Anita Hobson-Powell said despite being one of the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide, there was currently low awareness of the condition.
“Millions of Australians are, or have been affected by liver disease, which left untreated, can result in the need for a liver transplant or in some cases, be fatal,” she said.
“ESSA is proud to announce the Position Statement due to the potential impact of exercise on a large proportion of the adult population and the subsequent cost benefits to the healthcare budget.”
ESSA’s Position Statement recommends those with MAFLD undertake 150-240 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise to reduce liver fat by approximately 2–4 per cent. As little as 135 minutes per week has been shown to be effective and this amount of exercise is also likely to improve central adiposity, cardiorespiratory fitness and cardiometabolic health, irrespective of weight loss.
Click here to access the article in Sports Medicine “Exercise in the Management of Metabolic-Associated Fatty Liver Disease (MAFLD) in Adults (2023)”.
To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, visit our online directory.