Never too late to kick bad habits

Right ex­er­cise can ben­e­fit se­niors

Windsor Star - - YOU - CARLA K. JOHN­SON

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 be­havioural 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 May 17, 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 train­ing. All ex­er­cised three times a week.

A con­trol group didn’t diet or ex­er­cise and only at­tended monthly nu­tri­tion classes.

Af­ter six months, all the groups — ex­cept the do-noth­ing group — had lost weight, about 19 pounds on av­er­age.

The com­bi­na­tion and aer­o­bic­sonly groups built their abil­ity to use oxy­gen most ef­fi­ciently, which can in­crease en­durance. The com­bi­na­tion and strength-only groups pre­served the most lean mass and bone.

The health dif­fer­ences showed up in fol­lowup test­ing where par­tic­i­pants did a se­ries of nine tasks in­clud­ing pick­ing up a penny, stand­ing up from a chair and climb­ing stairs.

Most im­proved was the com­bi­na­tion group with a 21 per cent av­er­age in­crease in scores com­pared to 14 per cent im­prove­ment in the aer­o­bics-only and strength-only groups.

“It’s never too late to change life­long un­healthy habits,” Vil­lareal said.

Mi­nor in­juries such as knee pain and shoul­der pain among the ex­er­cis­ers were not enough to out­weigh the ben­e­fits, he said.

The study ex­cluded peo­ple with se­vere heart dis­ease and other se­ri­ous health prob­lems, so the re­sults ap­ply only to peo­ple well enough to start an ex­er­cise pro­gram.

“You get more bang for your buck with do­ing both types of train­ing, es­pe­cially when it comes to im­prov­ing frailty scores,” said Dr. Lawrence Ap­pel of Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity, who was not in­volved in the study.

LM OTERO/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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