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Anne O. Brady, Chad R. Straight, and Ellen M. Evans

The aging process leads to adverse changes in body composition (increases in fat mass and decreases in skeletal muscle mass), declines in physical function (PF), and ultimately increased risk for disability and loss of independence. Specific components of body composition or muscle capacity (strength and power) may be useful in predicting PF; however, findings have been mixed regarding the most salient predictor of PF. The development of a conceptual model potentially aids in understanding the interrelated factors contributing to PF with the factors of interest being physical activity, body composition, and muscle capacity. This article also highlights sex differences in these domains. Finally, factors known to affect PF, such as sleep, depression, fatigue, and self-efficacy, are discussed. Development of a comprehensive conceptual model is needed to better characterize the most salient factors contributing to PF and to subsequently inform the development of interventions to reduce physical disability in older adults.

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Chad R. Straight, Leah R. Dorfman, Kathryn E. Cottell, Julie M. Krol, Ingrid E. Lofgren, and Matthew J. Delmonico

Background:

Community-based interventions that incorporate resistance training (RT) and dietary changes have not been extensively studied in overweight and obese older adults. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effects of a community-based RT and dietary intervention on physical function and body composition in overweight and obese older adults.

Methods:

Ninety-five overweight and obese (BMI = 33.4 ± 4.0 kg/m2) older adults aged 55–80 years completed an 8-week RT and dietary intervention at 4 Rhode Island senior centers. Participants performed RT twice-weekly using resistance tubing, dumbbells, and ankle weights. Participants also attended 1 weekly dietary counseling session on a modified Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet. Outcome measurements included anthropometrics, body composition, and physical function.

Results:

There were small changes in body mass (–1.0 ± 1.8 kg, P < .001), waist circumference (–5.2 ± 3.8 cm, P < .001), and percent body fat (–0.5 ± 1.4%, P < .001). In addition, significant improvements were observed in knee extensor torque (+7.9 ± 19.1 N-m, P < .001), handgrip strength (+1.2 ± 2.5 kg, P < .001), and 8-foot up-and-go test time (–0.56 ± 0.89 s, P < .001).

Conclusion:

Community-based RT and dietary modifications can improve body composition, muscle strength, and physical function in overweight and obese older adults. Future investigations should determine if this intervention is effective for long-term changes.