Exercising daily and cutting 250 calories may improve heart health in obese older adults. According to a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, simple lifestyle adjustments can reap big rewards for adults struggling with obesity.
Modifiable lifestyle factors such as regular physical activity and a healthy diet may help offset age-related aortic stiffness. This measure of vascular heart health has a great impact on cardiovascular disease in many obese adults.
The controlled study included 160 sedentary adults aged 65 to 79 years with obesity. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups for 20 weeks. The first group was to exercise with a regular diet. The second group performed exercises plus moderate calorie restrictions of approximately 250 calories per day. The last group exercised and had more intensive calorie reductions of approximately 600 calories per day.
The two calorie-restricted groups had premade lunches and dinners delivered to them with less than 30% of the calories from fat and at least .8 grams of protein per kilogram of their ideal body weight. They made their own breakfasts according to a dietitian-approved menu.
All participants received supervised aerobic exercise training four days a week for the entire duration of this study.
Researchers found that weight loss of nearly 10% of total body weight was associated with improvements in aortic stiffness in participants who were assigned to the exercise plus moderate calorie restricting group. Weight loss was similar between the calorie restricting groups despite nearly two times fewer calories, and the higher calorie-restricted group showed no signs of improvement in aortic stiffness.
“Our findings indicate that lifestyle changes designed to increase aerobic activity and moderately decrease daily calorie intake may help to reduce aortic stiffness and improve overall vascular health,” said Tina E. Brinkley, Ph.D., lead author of the study. “However, we were surprised to find that the group that reduced their calorie intake the most did not have any improvements in aortic stiffness, even though they had similar decreases in body weight and blood pressure as the participants with moderate calorie restriction.”
This study helps to clarify that combining exercise with modest calorie restriction maximizes the benefits of vascular health more than other combinations. The findings challenge the previous notions that higher intensity calorie restriction is best for weight loss and aortic stiffness.
More research is needed to understand the reasons behind these findings, but for now, obese adults should be performing moderate exercise and reducing calories by 250 per day.