Senior Fitness: A Fountain Of Youth?

“It’s natural”.

“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.

Seriously.

It’s natural, learn to accept it.

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.

The Study

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“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”.

The Details

  • In addition, they also wanted to know which fuel source the body would draw upon, carbohydrates or fats, under these different conditions.

The 64 participants were 60-75 years of age and were either overweight or obese.

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 onlycalories reduced to achieve a 10% weight loss by the end of the four months.
  • exercise plus diet

Results

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

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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.

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Stay tuned.

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Related Posts

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References

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

14 comments

  1. Thanks for the info. Some of my younger patients argue why live healthier. You have to die of something. I say it’s for your quality of life. You show this in your post.

  2. This is awesome. I can’t wait to hear what her doctor says.

    What’s sad is that her doctor may even know that those results are possible, but is shy to tell someone such a thing because most people I believe don’t want to hear that from their doctor. As strange as that sounds.

  3. I am SO THANKFUL I found your site. I’m a 61 yr old senior who’s been obese all my life. I was an active child always on my bike or skates but have become more seditary after becoming disabled and from living alone. I’m starting to work out on my TotalGym and I’ve changed my diet drastically. No results yet compared to my neighbors who are 20+ my senior but I know I’ll be seeing some soon following this site. Thank you for your time and your input. Your fitness knowledge is deeply appreciated.

  4. I found your blog on google and it is good to see others focusing on “Baby Boomer” type issues! Thank you so much.

  5. Very inspirational post, and I do hope the doctor indeed puts a little mayo on the bread and eats his words! Very motivational keep up the great work!

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  7. Nice one! It’s very difficult to see the obsession our world currently has with youth. We equate youth with fitness, but posts like this help expand the definition of fitness and break down the youth-obsessed behavior. My sense is that older people who have a more stable emotional life are actually that much more capable of gaining control of their bodies given their ability to recognize the consequences, good & bad, of their actions. Obviously we will all die someday, but I’d prefer it to be a short progression rather than a decades-long battle.

    I’m sending this article to my folks, who have all but given up on their health at 60 years old. They’re constantly sick, and it’s about time they recognize their power over their health.Thanks!

  8. Life is so beautiful, so I fight for my happiness aggressively, yes I am a senior and I’m proud of myself. Even though, some time ago I am a little lonely, but I have found my other half thanks to [seniorconnecting .com]. I believe you are also enjoy your life, so let’s be happy together!

  9. A senior friend of mine is 62 and is told all the time he looks in his mid-40’s. He still works full time, and encourages healthy balance between mind, body, and diet. He meditates, stays away from fatty foods, and exercises only 20 minutes a day! I am half his age, in decent shape, but he would whip me on the treadmill or in the gym. I totally agree with you Doug, aging younger is the way to go. 🙂

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