Older Obese Adults Benefit From Moderate Exercise

Whether they have diabetes or not, older adults who are extremely obese can benefit from moderate-intensity exercise. It increases their ability to remain independent, according to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers.

People with overall obesity, or abdominal obesity may develop major mobility disability (MMD). Those with MMD cannot walk a quarter of a mile without sitting down, or receiving assistance.

“The inability to walk a quarter of a mile is a proxy for common daily activities, such as the inability to walk…several street blocks to go to a store,” said Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., at Wake Forest Baptist. “Having a major mobility disorder can really affect the quality of life and independence for older people, but we showed that moderate exercise was a safe and effective way to reduce that risk even in severely obese people.”

Though earlier data suggested obesity in older populations lessened the mobility benefits of physical activity, the Wake Forest investigators made the opposite determination by analyzing data from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study.

The LIFE study involved 1,635 sedentary men and women, 70 to 89 years old. Each participant was randomly assigned to either a moderate intensity exercise program, or to a health education program. They were also put into one of four categories according to their body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference: non-obese with BMI below 30, non-obese with large waist circumference, class 1 obese with BMI of 30 to 35, and class 2 obese with BMI above 35.

During the two-year study the exercise group attended two training sessions each week, and engaged in at-home activities three to four times per week. The activities included walking, plus balance, flexibility, and strength training.

The health education participants went to workshops on topics such as personal safety, nutrition, legal, and financial concerns. These sessions included lectures, group discussions, and five to ten minutes of upper body flexibility exercises.

Though the researchers saw no significant difference between obesity categories and intervention effects, they found those in the class 2 obesity category reaped the most benefit from the physical activity program. They reduced their MMD risk by 31 percent.

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
Photo credit: wellunwell

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