Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — If you are a man or woman nearing the age of fifty, look at your midsection. If you’re like many people, you’ll have to bend over your bulging waistline to see your feet. Yes, it’s the dreaded bulging diaphragm that increases as you get older, just like a receding hairline or an increase in wrinkles.
It’s hard to face this reality that seems almost like a rite of passage, part of the cycle of life, right? But a new study finds that allowing your midsection to expand does more than just shopping for a size up, because it can also harm your physical capabilities later in life.
The study, which followed 4,509 people aged 45 and over in Norway for more than two decades, found that participants who had a large or medium waist circumference at the start of the study were 57% more likely to be “skinny”. , who had a normal waist circumference.
But frailty does not mean that the elderly person is “tottering” hunched over on a stick, as one might think. But it means poor grip strength, slow gait, general fatigue, unintentional weight loss, and reduced physical activity.
People who were obese at the start of the study, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, were 2.5 times more likely to experience frailty than those with a normal BMI (range 18.5 to 24.9), it said. Study published in BMJ Open on January 23, 2023.
The authors of the study believed that the causes of weakness may be multiple. Obesity causes increased inflammation in fat cells, which can damage muscle fibers, “leading to reduced muscle strength and function,” explained co-author Shrishti Ushai, Ph.D. Research Fellow in Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Oslo, Tromsø, Norway.
The researchers concluded that the findings highlight the need to monitor both overall weight gain and any increase in waist circumference, broadening the definition of frailty.
“In the context of a rapidly aging population, and a growing obesity epidemic, mounting evidence recognizes the ‘obese and frail’ subset of older individuals rather than viewing frailty as a wasting disorder alone,” they wrote.
Exercise can help combat the increased fatigue associated with aging. Adults should do muscle-strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups on a minimum of two days or more per week, as well as moderate-intensity exercise at least two and a half hours per week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Dr. Nica Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York and assistant professor of medicine at Grossman College of Medicine at New York University, previously told CNN that reducing body fat and building lean muscle may help improve balance and posture.
To stay strong and healthy, try doing aerobic and strength training exercises.
“They seem to be working together and helping each other move toward better outcomes,” said Dr. William Roberts, a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. “It is likely that the balanced program of strength and aerobic activity is the best – and may be closer to mimicking the activities of our ancestors, which helped define our current genetic pools.”
To get started with strength training, CNN Fitness contributor Dana Santas, a mind-body coach in professional sports, suggests mastering bodyweight moves first, before moving on to the free weights.