Moderate exercise can help older obese people be mobile, carry out daily activities
A new study found that a structured physical activity programme reduced the risk of major mobility disability in older adults with extreme obesity.Updated: Jun 28, 2017 10:51 IST
According to a recent study, moderate-intensity exercise can help even extremely obese older adults improve their ability to perform daily activities.
As per the study’s lead author, Stephen Kritchevsky, director of the Sticht Center for Healthy Ageing and Alzheimer’s Prevention at Wake Forest Baptist, both overall obesity and abdominal obesity are strongly associated with the development of major mobility disability (MMD), the inability to walk a quarter of a mile.
Previous data on older populations had suggested that obesity may lessen the beneficial effects of physical activity on mobility.
However, this research, which analysed data from the multicenter Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study, showed that a structured physical activity programme reduced the risk of MMD even in older adults with extreme obesity.
“The inability to walk a quarter of a mile is a proxy for common daily activities, such as the inability to walk a block around the neighborhood or to walk several street blocks to go to a store. 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,” said Kritchevsky.
The LIFE study was a large clinical trial that enrolled 1,635 sedentary men and women age 70 to 89. The participants were randomised to a moderate intensity physical activity programme or a health education programme to test if the physical activity programme would reduce the rate of MMD compared to the education programme.
Major mobility disability was defined as the inability to walk 400 metres (about a quarter of a mile) without sitting and without help from another person or a walker, noted Kritchevsky.
Participants were divided into four groups according to body mass index (BMI) – a measure of body fat based on height and weight – and waist circumference: non-obese with BMI less than 30; non-obese with high waist circumference of more than 40 inches for men and 34 inches for women; class 1 obese with BMI between 30 and 35; and class 2 obese with BMI of 35 or higher.
The physical activity programme focused on walking, strength, balance and flexibility training.
The goal for participants was to be able to walk at moderate intensity for 30 minutes and perform 10 minutes of lower-extremity strength training with ankle weights and 10 minutes of balance training in a single session.
Participants attended two centre-based training sessions per week and performed at-home activities three to four times per week during the two-year study. The health education programme involved in-person group workshops focused on ageing-relevant topics such as nutrition, safety and legal/financial issues. Sessions included lectures and interactive discussions and five to 10 minutes of upper body stretching exercises.
While there was no significant difference between obesity category and intervention effect, those in the class 2 obesity group showed the greatest benefit from the physical activity programme, reducing their risk of MDD by 31%, concluded Kritchevsky.
In the United States, obesity affects nearly 13 million adults age 65 and older. The study was published in journal Obesity.
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First Published: Jun 28, 2017 10:51 IST