75ºF

How to lose weight safely as we age

Weight loss can be a tricky topic. While obesity poses serious health risks, slimming down may also lead to muscle and bone loss.

But researchers found adding a piece of fashion helped the elderly lose weight safely.

“Thinking about exercise as a countermeasure to muscle and bone loss as an older adult loses weight, I think, is very important,” said Dr. Kristen Beavers, assistant professor in Health & Exercise Science at Wake Forest University.

Beavers studies the risks and benefits of weight loss in older adults.

“That’s because when people want to lose weight, what they want to lose is fat, but some of what you lose is muscle and bone,” Beavers said.

That can lead to fractures. But shedding fat also means improvements in function.

“They’re going to get out of this chair a little faster. They’re going to walk a little faster,” Beavers said.

So, Beavers and her team came up with a clever way to incorporate resistance training into the study in the form of a vest that holds small weights.

They asked 40 seniors in the pilot study to wear the vest up to 10 hours a day.

“They would just get up in the morning and put it on, wear it during their most active part of the day and then take it off,” said Beavers.

The results were pretty dramatic.

“People who wore this vest during this pilot study actually did preserve their bone, especially at their hip,” Beavers said.

Joyce Jackson, 78, joined the study and worked her way up to 60 minutes on a bike three times a week.

“I knew that I needed to exercise but never took the time to do it,” Jackson said. “Start off with a little bit and you’ll see the difference.”

In addition to performing weight-bearing exercises at least three days per week, Beavers also recommends a high-protein diet with calcium and vitamin D to minimize muscle and bone loss.

Wake Forest University received a $2.9 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to expand the INVEST study. Researchers are enrolling people ages 60 to 85 years of age now. The weighted vest is available on Amazon for about $200, which Beavers points out is more cost-effective than a gym membership.