Trends in obesity rates, especially in older adults, suggest a misconception that it’s too late to get healthy. In fact, more than a third of Americans over 65 are obese. There exists a falsehood that it is normal to lose good health as one ages. Perhaps it is due to the fear of falling or other injury, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle. Aches and pains associated with aging, also contribute to a decrease in activity. Unfortunately, this mindset only exasperates the increase in obesity. The truth is senior do benefit from exercise, no matter what their age.
New research is suggesting that overweight and obese senior citizens who want to lose weight should pursue aerobic exercise, strength training, and a healthy diet. A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine involved older, obese older adults who scored in the “frail” range on a standard test. This group of 141 individuals were broken into three groups. One group did only aerobic exercise such as walking on a treadmill. Another focused on strength training, and the other on doing both. Lastly, there was also a control group that only attended nutrition classes, but did not diet or exercise.
The study ran for six months, with each non-control group exercising three times per week. At the conclusion of the study, all non-control groups lost weight. In fact, the average weight loss was 19 pounds. The most significant finding, however, was the improvement in frailty scores. Follow up testing involved mobility tasks such as walking up stairs, standing up, and picking up a coin. All three non-control groups improved their scores. The most improved was the combination group of aerobic exercise and strength training at 21%. The other two non-control groups averaged a 14% improvement.
So, what’s the lesson learned here? That it is never too late to get healthy. Older individuals can do more to help themselves live independently as they age. Plus, do it safely, without risk of injury. Age does not matter when it comes to living a healthy life.