Scottsdale Weightloss Center

Should I exercise when losing weight (especially if I’m “older”)?


In addition to the well-known cardiovascular, metabolic, and cancer causing consequences of obesity, excess weight is also a significant contributor to functional limitation in old age. Current trends suggest that functionally disabled older adults with obesity will soon become the most common reason for frailty. Studies have shown that a 5% to 10% weight loss in older adults results in an immediate improvement in muscle strength and function. Weight loss is good! What happens if we add exercise to active weight loss? A recent study answers that question.

The study divided a group of older adults (average age of 67 years) with obesity (average BMI of 34.4) into three groups:

  1. Weight loss only – behavioral-based intervention and diet (WL)
  2. Weight loss – plus aerobic training/walking (WL+AT)
  3. Weight loss- plus resistance training/progressive weight lifting (WL+RT)

The study lasted 18 months.

What were the findings after 18 months?

  • Total body mass (weight) lost with:
    WL was 12.5 pounds
    WL+AT was 18.7 pounds
    WL+RT was 19.1 pounds
  • Total fat mass lost with:
    WL was 10.6 pounds
    WL+AT was 15.0 pounds
    WL+RT was 17.2 pounds
  • Total lean mass lost with:
    WL was 2.2 pounds
    WL+AT was 3.5 pounds
    WL+RT was 0.8 pounds

What does this mean?

  • Any intentional weight loss in patients with obesity is good.
  • Fat mass loss is primarily responsible for weight loss associated with improvements in mobility.
  • Lean mass loss is primarily responsible for weight loss associated with declines in strength.

In Summary: Weight loss plus resistance training (WL+RT) results in the greatest weight loss and the most favorable shift in body composition compared to weight loss plus aerobic train (WL+AT) or weight loss (WL) alone therefore maximizing potential functional benefit.

For a comprehensive weight loss program, including safe and effective physical activity recommendations please contact an Obesity Medicine expert:

Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with Obesity. Obesity (2017) 25, 1823-1829. doi: 10.1002/oby.21977

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