“As we age, our bodies lose muscle and gain fat”.
“We get weaker and fatter”.
This is the diagnosis a “senior” friend of mine received from her doctor.
It’s natural, learn to accept it.
Accept that wheelchairs, electric scooters and assisted living are the natural consequences of aging?
Accept that it is impossible to remain fit and healthy well into our “golden years”.
Not according to the research coming out of the University of Pittsburgh.
“In this study, a group of sedentary and overweight older people placed on a four-month exercise program not only became more fit, but melted off body-fat”
“The new study also showed that when older people diet without exercising, they lose more lean muscle compared to those who exercise, said senior researcher Bret H. Goodpaster”.
“When they combined weight loss with exercise, it nearly completely prevented the loss of lean muscle mass”.
“The results are important because <sedentary> older people tend to lose muscle mass as they age and too much muscle loss may interfere with activities of daily living”.
- Researchers wanted to know if greater fitness could be achieved through exercise training, weight loss (through dieting), or both.
- In addition, they also wanted to know which fuel source the body would draw upon, carbohydrates or fats, under these different conditions.
All of the participants were sedentary at the outset of the study.
The researchers divided the participants into three groups:
- exercise only – walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike
- diet only – calories reduced to achieve a 10% weight loss by the end of the four months.
- exercise plus diet
At the end of the four month experiment, the researchers found that:
The Exercise Group
- The Exercise group became more efficient at the exercise task by the end of the study. This indicates that their fitness improved. This is good.
- The Exercise group became more efficient at using fat for fuel. This is great. Less body-fat.
The Diet Group
- The Diet-only group did not become efficient at the exercise task, even though they weighed less at the end of the experiment. Mixed results. Leaner, but no increase in fitness.
- The Diet-only group’s weight loss resulted from a loss of both muscle and fat. Not good. The loss of muscle mass is very, very bad.
The Exercise + Diet Group
- The Exercise plus diet group was the most efficient at the exercise task. This shows an additive effect of both dieting and exercise. Great, great, great.
- The Exercise plus diet group, like the exercise-only group, drew more on body-fat as an energy source.
And the winner is….
The Exercise and Diet Group
- Increased Fitness
- Increased Muscle Mass
- Decreased Body-Fat
By the way, my “senior” friend has another doctor’s appointment scheduled for December.
Based upon the changes she has already seen in the past 2 months, she is looking forward to seeing her doctor eat his words.
American Physiological Society (2008, September 22). Older People Who Diet Without Exercising Lose Valuable Muscle Mass. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080917095349.htm