Combining Aerobic and Resistance Exercise Works Best for Older Adults

People who are both elderly and obese face a tough conundrum: Weight loss is critical for health and mobility, but weight loss can also lead to a decline in muscle and bone mass.

The trick for this doubly challenged group is to achieve weight loss without increasing the risk of falls and fractures that can result from shrinking muscle mass and bone density.

The ideal prescription, according to new research published today (May 17) in the New England Journal of Medicine, is a combination of diet and an exercise regimen that includes both aerobic and resistance training. [The 4 Types of Exercise You Need to Be Healthy]

“You need both the benefits of endurance from aerobic exercise and the improvement of muscle strength from resistance exercise,” said Dr. Dennis Villareal, a physician and professor of Medicine-Endocrinologyat Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.”Combining them creates the biggest benefit.”

The findings could potentially help a large segment of the U.S. population. More than one-third of people age 65 or older are classified as obese. Being overweight has been associated with limited mobility and increased frailty.

“Obesity poses a unique problem for the elderly, because they can’t adapt to a higher body weight by producing more muscle and bone mass,” Villareal told Live Science.

To find out which combination of diet and exercise was most effective for obese, elderly adults, Villareal and colleagues evaluated the effects of dieting and exercise in 160 adults over a six-month period. All the study participants were over the age of 65, had a body mass index of 30 or more and had been living mostly sedentary lives.

The participants were divided into four groups. Three of those groups followed a prescribed diet and took part in an exercise program, with one group doing only aerobic exercise, such as treadmill walking and stationary cycling, one doing only resistance exercise

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