Overweight women 'are at risk of disability and loss of independence'

20 September 2011

Health research has shown that overweight women with less leg power and strength are increasing the risk of disability and loss of independence.

The study led by Dain LaRoche, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of New Hampshire, showed that obesity rates have a strong correlation with loss of muscle mass, dispelling the popular image that thin people are at higher risk of losing muscle.

Published in the Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology, the research sought to find how leg strength coped with daily activities and living such as rising from a chair or climbing the stairs.

Overweight women were found to have 24 per cent less lower-body strength than normal-weight participants in the study.

Prof LaRoche said: "Everything pointed to the fact that it was the extra fat that these people were carrying that was really limiting their mobility."

He added that being of normal body weight lets people perform daily activities and live on their own for longer.

In an earlier study, Prof LaRoche found that adults can increase their strength-to-weight ratio by engaging in regular exercise and losing weight.

LaRoche, Daine et al., "Fat mass limits lower-extremity relative strength and maximal walking performance in older women", Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology (2011), August 6th 2011.

Posted by Edward Bartel

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