Weight loss plus aerobic and resistance exercise can reduce frailty in obese older adults

May 18, 2017, Baylor College of Medicine
This is an image of a weight scale. Credit: CDC/Debora Cartagena

Although losing weight is generally considered a helpful step toward leading a healthier life, for obese older adults it can actually have adverse health consequences that can include accelerating age-related loss of muscle and bone mass. However, in a new study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine found that weight loss plus combined aerobic and resistance training provided greater improvement in physical function and reduction of frailty in older obese adults.

"The prevalence of obesity in the elderly population is rapidly increasing, and the appropriate management of obesity in the elderly is still controversial," said first author Dr. Dennis Villareal, professor of medicine in the division of diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism at Baylor. "Although weight loss is the first line of treatment for obesity in general, weight loss in the is not uniformly accepted. This is because there is a potential to worsen their frailty since weight loss will induce not only loss of fat but also loss of muscle and ."

For this reason, the study focused on determining the specific type of exercise that would be most appropriate to combine with caloric restriction to induce weight while improving functional status and preserving muscle and bone mass, said Villareal, also a staff physician at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Villareal and his colleagues analyzed a total of 160 people with obesity, aged 65 and older, over a 26-week period. At the beginning of the study, participants were randomly assigned to a weight-management program and one of three exercise programs—aerobic training, , or combined aerobic and resistance training—or to a control group (no -management or exercise program). Results were observed using the objective Physical Performance Test . The test simulates nine different activities of daily living – walking 50 feet, putting on and removing a coat, picking up a penny, standing up from a chair, lifting a book, climbing one flight of stairs, performing a progressive Romberg test, going up and down four flights of stairs, and making a 360-degree turn. Each component has a maximum score of four so a perfect score equals 36. To be eligible for the study participants needed to have evidence of mild to moderate frailty, meaning their Physical Performance Test score had to be at 31 or less. The mean score was around 28.

At the conclusion of the study, researchers found participants had the most robust improvement in their physical function when was combined with aerobic and resistance . In fact, some of them were no longer frail because their Physical Performance Test score was higher than 31.

"The most important message of this study is that it is never too late in life to change lifelong habits and unhealthy lifestyles," Villareal said.

Explore further: Older overweight and obese adults with diabetes benefit from better diet and exercise

More information: Dennis T. Villareal et al. Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults, New England Journal of Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1616338

Related Stories

Older overweight and obese adults with diabetes benefit from better diet and exercise

April 1, 2016
Lifestyle changes that include healthier diet and routine physical exercise help older overweight and obese adults with Type 2 diabetes improve glucose control, body composition, physical function and bone quality, according ...

Weight training appears key to controlling belly fat

December 22, 2014
Healthy men who did twenty minutes of daily weight training had less of an increase in age-related abdominal fat compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities, according to a new study by Harvard ...

Aerobic exercise trumps resistance training for weight and fat loss

December 15, 2012
Aerobic training is the best mode of exercise for burning fat, according to Duke researchers who compared aerobic training, resistance training, and a combination of the two.

For those short on time, aerobic, not resistance, exercise is best bet for weight, fat loss

January 2, 2013
A new study led by North Carolina researchers has found that when it comes to weight- and fat loss, aerobic training is better than resistance training. The study is believed to the largest randomized trial to directly compare ...

What exercises burn the most calories?

February 20, 2017
Researchers from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) have calculated for the first time the real energy expenditure in different training programs, including both aerobic and anaerobic forms.

Recommended for you

Bias keeps women with higher body weights away from the doctor: study

April 23, 2018
A study out of Drexel University's Dornsife School of Public Health linked past experiences with bias and discrimination and avoidance of doctors in women with higher body weights.

Fat cells seem to remember unhealthy diet

April 23, 2018
It only takes 24 hours for a so-called precursor fat cell to reprogram its epigenetic recipe for developing into a fat cell. This change occurs when the cell is put into contact with the fatty acid palmitate or the hormone ...

Wide waist with 'normal weight' bigger risk than obesity: study

April 20, 2018
People of "normal" weight who sport a wide waist are more at risk of heart problems than obese people, said researchers Friday, urging a rethink of healthy weight guidelines.

Lack of sleep leads to obesity in children and adolescents

April 16, 2018
Children who get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age are at a higher risk of developing obesity.

Getting kids to a good weight by 13 may help avoid diabetes

April 4, 2018
There may be a critical window for overweight kids to get to a healthy level. Those who shed their extra pounds by age 13 had the same risk of developing diabetes in adulthood as others who had never weighed too much, a large ...

Obesity is shifting cancer to young adults

March 26, 2018
A Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researcher has compiled evidence from more than 100 publications to show how obesity increases risk of 13 different cancers in young adults. The meta-analysis describes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.