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Obesity and Physical Inactivity May Increase Risk of Mobility Loss

Millions of Americans over the age of 65 have difficulty walking, which puts them at higher risk of falls and loss of independence. According to a new study, excess weight/obesity and an inactive lifestyle greatly increase the risk of developing mobility loss after the age of 60.


Researchers from the George Washington University examined data from 135,220 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. The researchers recorded participants’ height and weight, level of physical activity, mobility, and lifestyle factors at baseline and after 10 years of follow-up.  None of the participants had difficulty walking at the beginning of the study.


After 10 years of follow-up, 21% of the men and 37% of the women reported having trouble walking at an easy pace or were unable to walk at all. The researches found that participants who were obese and the least physically active had an accelerated risk of developing a walking disability. The risk of developing a walking disability increased with an increase of weight, regardless of physical activity level.


The researchers also found that participants who were at a normal weight but physically inactive were at a higher risk of developing a walking disability. Women were also more likely than men to develop a walking disability. Women with obesity and less than 3 hours of physical activity per week had a 5 times greater risk of mobility loss, while men in the same category had only a 4 times greater risk.


The study was published December 21, 2018 in the International Journal of Obesity.

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