Lose fat, preserve muscle: Weight training beats cardio for older adults

November 01, 2017

Weight training or cardio? For older adults trying to slim down, pumping iron might be the way to go.

A new study by researchers at Wake Forest University suggests combining weight training with a low-calorie diet preserves much needed lean muscle mass that can be lost through aerobic workouts.

The findings, "Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with Obesity," appear in the November issue of the journal Obesity.

"A lot of older adults will walk as their exercise of choice," said Kristen Beavers, assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest and lead author of the study. "But this research shows that if you're worried about losing muscle, weight training can be the better option."

In this 18-month study of 249 adults in their 60s who were overweight or obese, restricting calories plus resistance training in the form of weight-machine workouts resulted in less muscle loss, but significant fat loss, when compared to weight loss plus walking or weight loss alone.

Losing weight is generally recommended for those with obesity, but preserving muscle - while losing fat - is particularly important for older adults in order to maximize functional benefit, Beavers said.

"Surprisingly, we found that cardio workouts may actually cause older adults with obesity to lose more lean mass than dieting alone."

Loss of lean mass could have important consequences given the high risk of physical disability among the growing population of older adults.

The findings:

+ Total fat loss was much greater when participants combined diet plus walking (about 16 pounds) and diet plus weight training (about 17 pounds). Diet alone resulted in about 10 pounds of fat lost over 18 months.

+ Muscle mass loss was greatest with diet plus walking (about 4 pounds) compared with diet alone or diet plus weight training (each about 2 pounds). Put another way, the percentage of weight loss coming from muscle mass was 20% in the weight loss plus walking group, 16% in the weight loss alone group, and 10% in the weight loss plus weight training group.

+ Loss of fat was associated with faster walking speed, while loss of muscle was associated with reduced knee strength.

These results may be even more important for older adults who gain and lose weight with frequency, because seniors typically don't regain muscle - they regain fat mass - which is "all the more reason for older adults to try and preserve muscle mass during weight loss," Beavers said.

This is the latest study from the Cooperative Lifestyle Intervention Program (CLIP-II), a single-blind, randomized controlled trial. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a weight-loss-only group, who followed a calorie-restricted diet with no exercise regimen; a weight loss plus cardio (i.e., walking) group; and a weight loss plus weight-training group.
-end-
Co-authors on this paper included W. Jack Rejeski and Anthony Marsh, co-principal investigators of the CLIP-II study, and Jessica Sheedy, Beverly Nesbit and Jill Gaukstern, all of the Wake Forest University Department of Health and Exercise Science; and Walter Ambrosius, Michael Walkup, Jonathan Burdette and Barbara Nicklas of the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

The research was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Partial support also comes from grants by the National Institute on Aging.

Wake Forest University

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.