CHICAGO – Heavy seniors who want to lose pounds safely shouldn’t skip the weight machines or the treadmill, new research suggests.
Experts have worried about recommending weight loss to older, obese people because it speeds up bone and muscle loss, increasing the danger of falls and broken bones. Losing weight plus aerobic activity and strength training improved their health more than dieting plus either type of exercise alone.
The results suggest a combination of exercises is the safest approach, and may have big implications for helping people continue to live independently as they age. Medicare, the U.S. health insurance program for people 65 and older, now covers behavioral therapy for weight loss and some plans offer gym memberships.
“It is the worst of both worlds, being fat and frail,” said Dr. Dennis T. Villareal of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who led the study under a grant from the National Institute on Aging.
More than a third of Americans ages 65 and older are obese. Obesity can make the elderly vulnerable to medical problems, but losing weight can worsen frailty by hastening muscle and bone loss.
The study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 141 older obese people who were randomly assigned to a diet-and-exercise program. They scored in the frail range on a standard test used with seniors.
One group did aerobics such as treadmill walking. Another did strength training with weight machines. A third group did aerobics and strength…