As people age, the potential for mobility limitation and the threat of disability increase. A recent study found that those who gain weight early in life may be at greater risk for problems with mobility in old age than those who maintain lower weights in their younger years. Published in the April 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology (2009; 169 , 927–36), the study focused on the body mass index (BMI) of 2,845 adults aged 70–79 years.
The researchers determined each participant’s BMI at various stages in life and then applied mobility tests (ability to walk one-quarter mile or climb 10 steps) semiannually over 7 years of follow-up. According to the results, those who carried extra weight early in life were far more likely to have difficulty performing the mobility tests, even if the weight had been lost subsequently. Mobility limitations were even greater in those participants who were still overweight or obese. “Over the past couple of decades there has been a trend towards declining rates of physical disability in older adults,” stated lead study author Denise Houston, PhD, RD. “However, the dramatic increase in overweight and obesity in the United States may reverse these declines and may lead to an increase in physical disability among future generations of older adults.”
“From a purely morphological standpoint, the more the person’s mass, the more stress is put through the system,” states Michol Dalcourt, a fitness educator based in Del Mar, California. “The more stress on the system, the more fascia is laid down in an effort to make the structure more stable.” This extra fascia can impede joint mobility, he adds. If you experience weight-related mobility issues, Dalcourt suggests placing efforts on safely increasing range of motion through mobility exercises “that ‘set’ the fascia to a new position. An individual, as part of an active warm-up, must perform mobilization exercises for the foot, ankle, hips and thoracic spine. This will ultimately take pressure off of the knees, low back, neck and shoulders.” For those who currently carry extra weight, Dalcourt believes a two-pronged approach—range of motion improvements and fat loss—is the safest, most effective method for achieving success.
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