Greater Effect of Adiposity Than Physical Activity or Lean Mass on Physical Function in Community-Dwelling Older Adults

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Christie L. Ward
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Rudy J. Valentine
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Ellen M. Evans
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Adiposity, lean mass, and physical activity (PA) are known to influence physical function in older adults, although the independent influences are not completely characterized. Older adults (N = 156, M age = 68.9 ± 6.7 yr, 85 men) were assessed for body composition via dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, PA by accelerometer, and physical function via timed up-and-go (UP&GO), 30-s chair stand, 6-min walk (6-min WALK), and Star-Excursion Balance Test. In the absence of percentage-body-fat by PA interactions (p > .05), main effects existed such that a higher percentage body fat was associated with poorer performance in UP&GO, 30-s chair stand, and 6-min WALK (p < .05). No significant main effects were found for PA and functional performance. Adiposity explains 4.6–11.4% in physical functional variance (p < .05). Preventing increases in adiposity with age may help older adults maintain functional independence.

Ward and Evans are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Valentine is with the Dept. of Medicine, Boston University, Boston, MA.

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