TUESDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Older, overweight women
have about the same power and strength in their legs as
normal-weight women. But when their leg strength and power was
assessed relative to their weight, older overweight women performed
much worse than those of normal weight, a new study has found.
The finding challenges the belief that thin elderly people are
most likely to become disabled due to the loss of muscle mass,
according to University of New Hampshire researchers.
Instead, the study authors suggest, carrying all that extra
weight over time makes it more difficult to walk and to perform
activities of daily living that ward off disability.
Two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and the number
of elderly people is expected to double by 2030, which means a
large part of the population could be at risk for disability due to
loss of muscle mass, lead author Dain LaRoche, an assistant
professor of kinesiology, explained in a university news
Compared to normal-weight older women, those who were overweight
had an average of 24 percent less leg strength-to-weight ratio, 38
percent less leg power-to-weight ratio, and they walked 20 percent
slower, the investigators found.
"Everything pointed to the fact that it was the extra fat that these people were carrying that was really limiting their mobility," LaRoche said in the news release. "Being of a normal body weight lets you perform activities of daily living and live on your own longer."
He said the findings, published in the October issue of the
Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, suggest that normal-weight adults should try to maintain their weight and strength as they age.
Overweight older adults can improve their strength-to-weight
ratio by either boosting strength or losing weight, LaRoche
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
strength training for older adults.