BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of an accelerometer in predicting body weight (BW) change during a lifestyle intervention and to find out whether exercise or overall physical activity is associated with change in insulin sensitivity and body composition. METHODS: A total of 49 overweight (body mass index [BMI] > or = 23 kg/m2) women with diabetes were enrolled and performed lifestyle intervention while monitoring BW, total energy expenditure (TEE) and physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) using an accelerometer, and energy intake (EI) using a three-day dietary record at baseline and every 2 weeks for 12 weeks. We assessed body composition using bioimpedance analysis and compared the actual BW change to the predicted BW change, which was calculated from the energy deficit (ED) between EI and TEE (ED = EI-TEE). RESULTS: Mean age was 57.2 years, duration of diabetes was 8.0 years, and BMI was 27.8 kg/m2. There was no significant difference between EI and TEE at baseline. For 12 weeks, the ED was 474.0 kcal.day-1, which was significantly correlated with BW change (-3.1 kg) (r = 0.725, P < 0.001). However, the actual BW change was 50% lower than the predicted BW change. Both TEE and PAEE correlated with change in KITT (r = 0.334, P = 0.019; r = 0.358, P = 0.012, respectively), BMI (r = -0.395, P = 0.005; r = -0.347, P = 0.015, respectively), and fat mass (r = -0.383, P = 0.007; r = -0.395, P = 0.005, respectively), but only TEE correlated with fat free mass change (r = -0.314, P = 0.030). CONCLUSION: The accelerometer appears to be a useful tool for measuring TEE under free-living conditions for both short- and long-term periods.