Dieting and exercise together are more effective at improving physical performance and reducing frailty in obese seniors than either alone, according to researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
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.
“We wanted to tease apart the effects of dieting and exercise in older people who are obese,” says principal investigator Dennis T. Villareal, M.D. “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.”
For the study, researchers evaluated the effects of dieting and exercise in more than 100 obese seniors over a one-year period. 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.
‘Combining exercise and weight loss isn’t designed so much to extend their life expectancy as it is to improve their quality of life during their remaining years and to help seniors avoid being admitted to a nursing home,” Villareal said.
About 20 percent of people 65 and older are obese, and the rate is expected to continue rising as more baby boomers become senior citizens.
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