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Active Voice: Exercise and Diet Promote Safe Weight Loss in Obese Older Adults

from By Thomas W. Buford, Ph.D.

Active Voice is a column by experts in science, medicine and allied health. The viewpoints expressed do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of ACSM.

Thomas W. Buford, Ph.D., is an ACSM member and Lecturer in the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research at the University of Florida in Gainesville. His translational research focuses on investigating the causes of skeletal muscle dysfunction and frailty in advanced age, including exercise and dietary habits. Dr. Buford presented research related to this commentary at the ACSM Conference on Integrative Physiology of Exercise (IPE) held in Miami last month.

Recent census data indicate that the number of older adults (>65 years) in the U.S. is rapidly increasing and will continue to rise through the next half century. This increase in the older adult population will soon place significant strain on the country’s health care system, as age is an independent risk factor for numerous debilitating conditions. Additionally, approximately 35 percent of older adults are considered obese, putting them at an even greater risk for developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Thus, obese older adults are a particularly high risk group, and effective interventions are needed to improve body composition in these individuals.

Several studies have suggested that while dieting alone may induce weight loss, it may also exacerbate the loss of skeletal muscle in obese older adults and further compromise their physical function. Conversely, studies have shown exercise-only interventions to improve muscle function but not necessarily induce weight loss. Therefore, we conducted a randomized trial among obese older women to compare a weight-loss intervention that included both diet and exercise training to a control group that received education regarding healthy lifestyle choices. The trial examined the effects of the interventions on physical function, body composition and molecular signals relevant to skeletal muscle function. more

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