Is Weight Loss Safe for Seniors?


Losing weight is a challenge for most people, but it is even harder for the elderly. Due to reduced bone and muscle mass, as well as a greater risk of nutritional deficiency, doctors often advise the elderly to stay away from intentional weight loss. But, at the same time, studies show that the elderly could greatly benefit from safe weight loss, successfully reducing their risks of cardiovascular disease, increasing their mobility, and boosting their overall health. Clearly, when it comes to weight loss and exercise, seniors are left to figure out how to manage the tricky balancing act of boosting their health without increasing their risks of harm, depletion and injury.


Now, new research shows that losing weight is the smart thing for senior citizens to do, but only if done properly. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center has released data from their research, which indicates that senior citizens doing exercise – together with a healthy weight loss diet – are able to improve their body composition. This, in turn, promotes healthy cardiovascular function, aiding in the prevention of cardiovascular disorders, increasing mobility and enhancing overall health.

Kristen Beavers, PhD. M.P.H., was the lead author of the study, and she pointed out that these findings provide real evidence that weight loss among the elderly can have real benefits. While many elderly lose weight due to the decrease in bone and muscle density, intentional weight loss and the reduction of body fat will provide real health benefits.

The study was conducted on 288 older adults, all of which were either overweight or obese. They were all at risk of developing cardiovascular disorders as a result of their body composition. The study lasted for 2 ½ years, and it involved 18 months of regular physical activity for the senior citizens included in the study. The results of the study showed that intentional weight loss was very possible for the senior citizens, and it was possible for them to maintain that weight loss at a steady rate in order to reduce their body fat.

Not only did the decrease in weight reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, but it also improved their mobility, flexibility, and joint health. The reduction of weight and body fat in their body increased their ability to move and exercise, which allowed them to be more active. This, in turn, allowed them to continue with their weight loss programs – and even increase the intensity as the time passed.

The study began with a reading of the body composition of each individual, as well as a test to determine the amount of time it took the participants to walk 400 meters. Eighteen months later, at the end of the study, the same two tests were once again applied – and the difference in body composition and mobility was significant.

This study shows that it is possible for senior citizens, particularly those who are overweight, to intentionally lose weight, and it’s actually recommended that they make the effort to do so. The intentional weight loss can delay the onset of chronic diseases, and can aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, joint disorders, and a variety of health conditions. While further research is needed in order to determine the safest way for the elderly to go about losing weight, the results of this study prove that weight loss is the best course of action for overweight individuals of all age who are worried about their health.