Published: Thu, May 18, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

'Fat and frail' seniors benefit from right exercise combo

'Fat and frail' seniors benefit from right exercise combo

WEDNESDAY, May 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) - Older, obese adults need to shed weight, but dieting can worsen their frailty.

Now, in a new study, researchers finding that the solution to the problem lies in exercise. He's a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Experts have anxious about recommending weight loss to older, obese people because it speeds up bone and muscle loss, increasing the danger of falls and broken bones.

"In essence, the combined group exercised more than the aerobic group alone and the resistance group alone", said Dr. Felipe Lobelo of the Emory University - Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.

After six months, all the groups - except the do-nothing group - had lost weight, about 19 pounds on average.

Most improved was the combination group with a 21 percent average increase in scores compared to 14 percent improvement in the aerobics-only and strength-only groups. The combination and strength-only groups preserved the most lean mass and bone.

Such research is critical, as "the majority of [older] people are either overweight or obese", said Nelson, who wasn't involved in the study.

Obesity is a major threat to the health of the country, but perhaps even more so to older Americans.

"How easy it is going to be to replicate this in real life is still unknown", Lobelo said. Maintaining muscle strength and bone density is essential to remain mobile and functional, she pointed out.

"All these multiple factors are what dictate to a large extent somebody's ability to be independent, healthy and to live life to its fullest as they age", Nelson added.

At the outset of the study, participants were mildly to moderately frail, according to the authors. To assess physical performance, the Villareal team used a 37-point scale, where higher numbers indicated better physical performance.

But Villareal said there was concern that the two types of exercise, if combined in a single session, might interfere with each other so the exercise time in the combined group was longer. Those whose program included aerobics and strength training scored best on tasks such as standing up from a chair and climbing stairs. And for those asking whether this means cardio training or weight-bearing resistance exercises, the answer is both. All groups also did flexibility and balance exercises.

The study was published May 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health; LITOE ClinicalTrials.gov number NCT01065636.

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