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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

GW: Study Finds Accelerated Risk of Walking Disability for Older Americans Linked to Excess Weight and Inactivity

The combination of an inactive lifestyle and excess weight or obesity represents a powerful joint risk factor for developing mobility loss after age 60, according to a new study by researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH).

Dr. Loretta DiPietro, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at Milken Institute SPH, and colleagues analyzed data from 135,220 men and women ages 50 to 71. The researchers took note of each volunteer’s body weight, levels of physical activity and lifestyle factors and then followed up to see how many had developed mobility loss by the end of the study. None of the participants had difficulty walking at the study’s start in 1995 to 1996. However, approximately 10 years later, 21 percent of the men and 37 percent of the women said they had trouble walking at an easy pace or were unable to walk at all.

The researchers found older people who were obese and who were the least physically active had an accelerated risk of developing a walking disability, and older women had a higher risk of mobility loss than older men.

This is the first study to follow participants over time and examine the joint contributions of weight and physical activity on the risk of developing a walking disability. It is also the first study to consider varying intensities of physical activity, as well as other lifestyle factors, such as TV viewing, smoking, and caloric intake.

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