Obese Seniors are Best Served with a Diet-Exercise Combo
For obese seniors, studies have now found that dieting and exercise together are more effective at improving physical performance and reducing frailty than either alone. The research, by a team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is reported March 31 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
We already know that older adults who are obese face severe health risks, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, which can be compounded by a lack of mobility. According to principal investigator Dennis T. Villareal, MD, adjunct associate professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, “In older adults, obesity exacerbates declines in physical performance and leads to frailty, impaired quality of life and increases in nursing home admissions. Given the increasing prevalence of obesity even among older people, it is important to find ways to combat the problem and help seniors remain healthier and more independent.”
All of the obese seniors in the study were randomly assigned to one of four groups. One set of seniors was placed on a low-calorie diet to help them lose weight. Members of a second group attended exercise sessions three times a week, doing balance work, resistance training and aerobic exercise. A third group combined both the low-calorie diet and the exercise. The last group made no changes in diet or exercise habits.
Although weight loss alone and exercise alone improved physical function by about 12 percent and 15 percent, respectively, neither was as effective as diet and exercise together, which improved physical performance by 21 percent.