Obesity is a significant public health issue that affects people of all ages, but it is especially problematic for older adults. As people age, their bodies undergo many changes, including body composition and physical and metabolic function. Obesity exacerbates these changes, leading to a wide range of health problems. In particular, obesity is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
Despite the many benefits of exercise for people with obesity, it is unclear which type of exercise is most effective in mitigating the deleterious effects of obesity in older adults. To address this question, researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial in which they compared the effectiveness of three different exercise modes: aerobic exercise (AEX), resistance exercise (REX), or a combination of the two (COMB). The study involved 160 obese older adults who were put on a diet to lose about 10% of their body weight.
Aerobic training, also known as cardiovascular or cardio training, involves using large muscle groups in a repetitive motion, typically for an extended period, to increase heart rate and breathing. Aerobic exercise includes brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing.
Resistance training, also known as strength or weight training, involves using resistance, such as weights or resistance bands, to build and strengthen muscles. Examples of resistance training exercises include weightlifting, squats, lunges, push-ups, and pull-ups.
The study found that a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise was most effective in improving ectopic fat deposition and physical and metabolic function in older adults with obesity. Specifically, the COMB group experienced more significant reductions in intermuscular adipose tissue (IMAT, fat within muscle) and visceral adipose tissue (VAT, belly fat) than the AEX and REX groups. IMAT and VAT are types of ectopic fat that are associated with an increased risk of metabolic disorders. The COMB group also experienced more significant improvements in insulin sensitivity, physical function, and knee strength than the AEX and REX groups.
Overall, the study suggests that a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise is most effective in mitigating the deleterious effects of obesity in older adults. The findings have important implications for public health, as they suggest that exercise interventions should be tailored to the specific needs of older adults with obesity.