Weight Loss

What Exercises Benefit Frailty Outcomes in Older Obese Adults?

Combining resistance training and aerobic exercises with weight loss improved the functional status of older adults with obesity, according to the findings of a recent study.

The study included 160 adults with obesity who were randomly assigned to a control group or a weight-management program that included either aerobic training, resistance training, or combined aerobic and resistance training. Changes in Physical Performance Test scores from baseline to 6 months (score range from 0 to 36) were assessed as the primary outcome, and changes in other frailty measures, body composition, bone mineral density, and physical function were assessed as secondary outcomes.
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Of the 160 adults enrolled at baseline, 141 participants completed the study.

The Physical Performance Test scores increased for all the exercise groups and was higher than the scores for the control group. Participants in the combination group had a larger increase in scores (21%, from 27.9 to 33.4 points) compared with both the aerobic group (14%, from 29.3 to 33.2 points) and resistance training group (14%, from 28.8 to 32.7 points).

Likewise, peak oxygen consumption increased more in participants in the combination group, (17%) and aerobic group (17.6%) compared with the resistance group (8%). Participants in both the combination and resistance groups experienced increases in strength compared with the aerobic group (18% and 19% vs 4%, respectively).

Participants in the aerobic group experienced a larger decrease in lean mass (5%) than participants in combination group (3%) and resistance group (2%). In addition, bone mineral density at the total hip decreased less in the combination (1%) and resistance group (0.5%) compared with the aerobic group (3%).

Overall, all participants in the exercise groups experienced a 9% body weight decrease compared with participants in the control group who did not experience any significant changes in weight.

“Of the methods tested, weight loss plus combined aerobic and resistance exercise was the most effective in improving functional status of obese older adults,” the researchers concluded.

—Melissa Weiss


Villareal DT, Aguirre L, Gurney AB, et al. Aerobic or resistance exercise, or both, in dieting obese older adults [published online May 18, 2017]. N Engl J Med. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1616338.