Weight loss combined with walking can improve mobility by 20 percent in older, obese adults with poor heart health, a new Wake Forest University study has suggested.
These findings run counter to the commonly held belief that it is unhealthy for older adults to lose weight.
The study addresses what to do to help seniors with poor mobility, but it also proves existing community agencies can be used effectively to get seniors the help they need.
"To improve mobility, physical activity has to be coupled with weight loss," said Jack Rejeski, Thurman D. Kitchin Professor of Health and Exercise Science.
The researchers partnered with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension and trained health care professionals at centers in three counties (Davidson, Forsyth and Guilford) to lead the programs along with an intervention team from Wake Forest
The participants, ranging in age from 60 to 79, were tracked over an 18-month period. The study divided participants into three groups: a control group who received education on successful aging, a physical activity only group, and a physical activity and weight loss group.
The physical activity group did well, but the most dramatic effect was found in the participants who combined an increase in physical activity with weight loss.
On average, they improved their mobility by five percent as measured by the time it took them to walk 400 meters. Those with the most limited mobility improved by as much as 20 percent.
The results appeared online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.