Staying Fit: Majority of Older Adults Struggle with Weight

Obesity contributes to many chronic conditions among the elderly

ByABC News
June 22, 2010, 5:40 PM

June 23, 2010— -- Nearly 70 percent of adults over age 60 are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of diabetes and other diseases, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study followed more than 4,000 men and women for 18 years and found that those who were overweight, measured by a body mass index (BMI) of 25-29, or obese, with a BMI of 30 or higher, were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

"As you age, your body changes," ABC News senior health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser said this morning on Good Morning America. "Your metabolism slows down."

Type 2 diabetes has doubled in the U.S. in the past 15 years, and is highest among adults over age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And diabetes is a well known risk factor in heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and other serious medical conditions.

However, keeping a diet rich with greens can prevent excess weight gain, said Besser

"If you don't cut back what you put in your body, you'll gain weight," he said. "It's that simple."

Besides eating well, even light physical activity can significantly contribute to a healthier lifestyle for many elderly adults, according to Besser.

Lower impact activities such as walking, swimming, and bicycling are generally safe for many older adults, even those who have chronic conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure, Besser said on Good Morning America. In fact, many studies show that regular aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure, decrease the symptoms of chronic conditions, and can improve brain function. But the key is to start slowly, he said.

"Just ask your doctor how to do that," he said.

Exercise is only good for you if you are feeling well, according to Besser. If you have a cold or the flu, wait to exercise until you feel better.

Warming up and cooling down by walking and stretching before and after each session is important to minimize any soreness or potential injury, he said.