-Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
New research conducted at the Sticht Center on Aging, Wake Forest University found that people who are overweight or obese when young, have an increased risk of having mobility problems in old age, even if extra weight is lost with age. Being overweight over a long period of time increases this risk, states lead investigator Denise Houston, Ph.D., R.D., expert gerontologist.
This is because later life weight loss is usually involuntary and results from underlying chronic condition. The study is based on the data collected in the Health, Aging and Body Composition study. Participants were well-functioning, living in communities, and free from life-threatening illnesses, with an average age of 74 years.
Mobility limitation was defined as difficulty walking a quarter-mile or climbing 10 steps. Mobility limitation information was collected every six months over seven years of follow-up.
Using their body mass index, the following was found:
- Women who were overweight or obese (a BMI of 25 or greater) from their mid-20s to their 70s were likely to develop mobility limitations three times more than those with normal weight throughout. For men, this risk was 1.6 times greater.
- Women who were obese (BMI of 30 or greater) at 50, but not in their 70s, were 2.7 times more likely to develop mobility limitations as compared to those who weren’t obese throughout; whereas men were 1.8 times more likely for the same.
- Extra weight strains joints, hinders exercise and leads to conditions, like diabetes and arthritis, leading to mobility limitations.