Study finds age is no barrier to successful weight loss

We are rapidly approaching the time when a great deal of the population will commit to a New Year’s resolution aiming to lose weight in 2021, but if you are thinking of using your age as an excuse, you may want to think again.

A new study from the University of Warwick has found that age does not present a barrier to successful weight loss and that those over 60 are able to lose weight just as easily as their younger counterparts.

According to the research, obese patients over the age of 60 can lose an equivalent amount of weight to that of younger people, using only lifestyle changes.

The researchers hope that their findings will correct misconceptions about the effectiveness of weight loss programs for older people and dispel myths about older adults trying to reduce their weight.

The researchers randomly selected 242 patients of an obesity service between 2005 and 2016 and compared those under 60 years of age to those aged between 60 and 78 for the weight loss they achieved during their time with the service.

All patients had their body weight measured both before and after lifestyle interventions and the percentage reduction in body weight calculated across both groups.

When compared, the two groups were equivalent statistically, with those aged 60 years and over on average reducing their body weight by 7.3 per cent compared with a body weight reduction of 6.9 per cent in those aged under 60 years. 

Both groups spent a similar amount of time within the obesity service, on average 33.6 months for those 60 years and over, and 41.5 months for those younger than 60 years.

The hospital-based weight loss program used only lifestyle changes such as dietary changes, psychological support and encouragement of physical activity.

Study author Dr Thomas Barber said weight loss was more important as people started ageing.

“Weight loss is important at any age, but as we get older we’re more likely to develop the weight-related co-morbidities of obesity,” Dr Barber said. “Many of these are similar to the effects of ageing, so you could argue that the relevance of weight loss becomes heightened as we get older, and this is something that we should embrace.

“There are a number of reasons why people may discount weight loss in older people. These include an ‘ageist’ perspective that weight loss is not relevant to older people and misconceptions of reduced ability of older people to lose weight through dietary modification and increased exercise.

“Rather than putting up barriers to older people accessing weight loss programs, we should be proactively facilitating that process. To do otherwise would risk further and unnecessary neglect of older people through societal ageist misconceptions.”

According to recently released physical activity guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), older adults should do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week or at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

Older adults (aged 65 years or older) are advised to add activities that emphasise balance and coordination, as well as muscle strengthening, to help prevent falls and improve health.

What New Year’s resolutions are you making for next year? Are you planning to try to lose weight? What are your plans to achieve this goal?

Written by Ben

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