A recent study by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine has found that people who gained weight early in life, even if they shed it later, are three times more prone to develop mobility problems in old age.
Lead researcher Denise Houston added that dropping weight later in life could lead to problems with mobility because weight loss later in life is usually involuntary and the result of an underlying chronic condition.
She suggests that carrying extra weight can strain joints, hinder exercise and lead to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and heart disease that are directly related to the development of mobility limitations.
"In both men and women, being overweight or obese put them at greater risk of developing mobility limitations in old age, and the longer they had been overweight or obese, the greater the risk," said Houston.
"We also found that, if you were of normal weight in old age but had previously been overweight or obese, you were at greater risk for mobility limitations," she added.
The researchers looked at 2,845 people who were on average 74 years old. The researchers defined mobility limitation as difficulty walking a quarter-mile or climbing 10 steps.
The researchers found that women who were overweight or obese with a BMI of 25 or greater from their mid-20s to their 70s were nearly three times more likely to develop mobility limitations than women who were normal weight throughout.
The risk for men was slightly less - they were about 1.6 times more likely to develop mobility limitations, according to the study.
The study also found that women who were obese with a BMI of 30 or greater, at age 50, but not in their 70s, were 2.7 times more likely to develop mobility limitations compared to women who were not obese throughout. ,
Men who were obese at 50, but not in their 70s, were 1.8 times more likely to develop mobility limitations than men who never carried the extra weight.
"The data suggest that interventions to prevent overweight and obesity in young and middle-aged adults may be useful in preventing or delaying the onset of mobility limitations later in life," she added.
The study appears in American Journal of Epidemiology.