Exercise in the Management of Metabolic-Associated Fatty Liver Disease (MAFLD) in Adults: A Position Statement from Exercise and Sport Science Australia

Shelley E. Keating, Angelo Sabag, Kate Hallsworth, Ingrid J. Hickman, Graeme A. Macdonald, Jonathan G. Stine, Jacob George, Nathan A. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Metabolic-associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) is the most prevalent chronic liver disease worldwide, affecting 25% of people globally and up to 80% of people with obesity. MAFLD is characterised by fat accumulation in the liver (hepatic steatosis) with varying degrees of inflammation and fibrosis. MAFLD is strongly linked with cardiometabolic disease and lifestyle-related cancers, in addition to heightened liver-related morbidity and mortality. This position statement examines evidence for exercise in the management of MAFLD and describes the role of the exercise professional in the context of the multi-disciplinary care team. The purpose of these guidelines is to equip the exercise professional with a broad understanding of the pathophysiological underpinnings of MAFLD, how it is diagnosed and managed in clinical practice, and to provide evidence- and consensus-based recommendations for exercise therapy in MAFLD management. The majority of research evidence indicates that 150–240 min per week of at least moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can reduce hepatic steatosis by ~ 2–4% (absolute reduction), but as little as 135 min/week has been shown to be effective. While emerging evidence shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) approaches may provide comparable benefit on hepatic steatosis, there does not appear to be an intensity-dependent benefit, as long as the recommended exercise volume is achieved. This dose of exercise is likely to also reduce central adiposity, increase cardiorespiratory fitness and improve cardiometabolic health, irrespective of weight loss. Resistance training should be considered in addition to, and not instead of, aerobic exercise targets. The information in this statement is relevant and appropriate for people living with the condition historically termed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), regardless of terminology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2347-2371
Number of pages25
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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