Weighing the Most Effective Weight-Loss Approach for Older Adults

Researchers are rethinking the conventional view on exercise and its benefits for obesity. A group of researchers from Wake Forest University is tackling the high prevalence of obesity among older adults by comparing different conventional weight loss approaches to a “move more, more often” activity promotion part of the SitLess program. In this study, researchers assert that structured exercise often produces little change in daily energy expenditure because the rest of the day is spent with little physical activity. This is of special concern for older adults who may have mobility problems. The study aimed to combine behavioral dietary weight loss strategies with an intervention to increase movement throughout the day, which could compare to structure exercise, and even surpass its success after a one-year follow-up.


Researchers recruited 180 participants, aged 65 to 85, who were classified as having obesity based on BMI measurements. Participants were randomized into three possible conditions, each of which incorporated a dietary weight loss component, plus: 1. aerobic exercise plus the novel intervention of moving more, more often (SitLess); 2. aerobic exercise; 3. SitLess. The dietary weight loss portion included participants undergoing an intervention where they had to reduce their daily intake by 400 calories and follow the macronutrient goal given to them by researchers. The aerobic exercise portion consisted of structured conventional exercise of moderate intensity for four or five days a week. The SitLess portion included frequent bouts of physical activity such that daily 10,000-step goals were achieved by distributing the stepping throughout the day. Study assessments were collected at baseline, after each intervention phase (6 months), and at the end of the maintenance phase (18 months later).


All groups demonstrated positive results, and all three conditions resulted in significant weight loss over the six months. However, over the 12-month follow-up period, the condition of weight loss and SitLess program regained the least amount of body weight compared to the condition of weight loss and aerobic exercise. Researchers believe that pairing dietary weight loss with continual movement throughout the day is what will get the weight off and keep it off.


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Fanning, J., Rejeski, W. J., Leng, I., Barnett, C., Lovato, J. F., Lyles, M. F., & Nicklas, B. J. (2022). Intervening on exercise and daylong movement for weight loss maintenance in older adults: A randomized, clinical trial. Obesity30(1), 85-95.


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