According to a study published in the Obesity Journal, older adults should focus less on scheduled exercise and more on building frequent periods of enjoyable movements into the day, as it can contribute to long-term weight loss.
This study is the first to show that a behavioural intervention focused on moving often throughout the day produces similar short-term weight loss and better long-term weight maintenance relative to a high volume of aerobic treadmill walking.
“This research is relevant for clinicians and other healthcare providers interested in supporting long-term weight loss among older adults, and for older adults who are personally interested in weight loss and avoiding weight gain,” said Dr. Jason Fanning, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. Fanning is the corresponding author of the study.
A total of 183 men and women aged 65 to 85 years who were classified as having obesity based on a body mass index of 30 to 45 kg/m2 were selected.
“The average participant was 70 years old, primarily female, highly educated and with hypertension and arthritis as being the most self-reported, prevalent comorbidities,” according to the reports. These traits did not statistically differ between study groups.
As per the reports, the participants were randomized to receive a group-based, dietary weight loss program paired with one of three physical activity recommendations and they are aerobic exercise and SitLess, aerobic exercise alone, or SitLess alone.
“All participants received a Fitbit Alta activity monitor at least two weeks before the start of the intervention, and the device was paired with a mobile health application that was tailored to each intervention arm (mHealth app; the EMPOWER Companion App),” the report noted.
Group meeting attendance was 80 percent in weight loss and SitLess, 84 percent in weight loss and aerobic exercise, and 78 percent in weight loss, aerobic exercise, and SitLess. Regarding structured exercise appointments, those in weight loss and aerobic exercise attended 79 percent of exercise sessions on average, whereas weight loss, aerobic exercise, and SitLess attended 65 percent.
Average weekly application usage during the intensive phase (weeks 1-24) and the full study period (weeks 1-72) revealed that weight loss, SitLess, and aerobic exercise group had the most app usage compared to the weight loss and aerobic exercise group, which had the least amount of app usage.
Those who received the SitLess intervention tended to look at their app more frequently, which was expected, as these individuals were encouraged to view their activity patterns several times daily.
“This is encouraging evidence that “moving more, more often” is beneficial for inclusion in weight loss and weight maintenance efforts for older adults. This form of treatment option may be perceived as more accessible and feasible for people pursuing sustained weight loss since it does not require structured exercise sessions and should be explored in future research. Simplification of guidance regarding exercise to “move more, more often” to sustain weight loss is promising for clinical practice and public health efforts moving forward,” said Dr. Alexandra Lee, PhD, a post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Kinesiology at The Pennsylvania State University.