WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Maintaining a healthy body weight throughout adulthood may help prevent or delay the onset of physical disability as we age, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine and colleagues.
The study, reported on-line by the International Journal of Obesity, found that older adults with a history of excess weight in midlife or earlier had worse physical performance than those who were normal weight throughout adulthood or became overweight in late adulthood.
"The data suggest that interventions to prevent overweight and obesity in young and middle-age adults may be useful in preventing or delaying the onset of physical disability later in life," said Denise K. Houston, Ph.D., R.D., lead author and an instructor in internal medicine-gerontology.
While the association between current obesity and physical disability is well-known, the cumulative effect is not. Using data from the Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, researchers examined the association between weight history and physical performance in late adulthood.
Participants were recruited from 70- to 79-year-old Medicare-eligible residents in the Pittsburgh, Pa., and Memphis, Tenn., metropolitan areas. Participants were eligible only if they reported no difficulty walking one-fourth of a mile, climbing 10 steps, or performing basic activities of daily living. They also had to be free of life-threatening illness.
The body mass index (BMI) of 2,803 participants was calculated using recalled height and weight at ages 25 and 50 and measured height and weight at ages 70 to 79. A body mass index of 30 or greater is considered obese. Overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25 and 30.
Participants physical performance was assessed with a short battery of tests to measure walking speed, ability to rise from a chair, and balance. Walking endurance was measured with a timed 400-meter walk. Po
Contact: Karen Richardson
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center