A new study has found that the dangerous combination of weak muscles and abdominal fat can lead to a significant loss of gait speed in older people.
The findings of the study were published in the journal 'Age and Ageing'.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Federal University of Sao Carlos (UFSCar) in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in partnership with colleagues at University College London (UCL) in the UK.
A slower gait is a natural outcome of the ageing process, but mobility problems can result if the walking speed falls sharply.
Everyday activities such as crossing the street before the traffic lights change become increasingly difficult, and there may be a heightened risk of falling as well as a gradual loss of independence if the condition worsens.
"Our comparative analysis showed loss of gait speed occurring mainly when abdominal fat and weak muscles were associated. Gait speed didn't decline so sharply in older people who had only abdominal fat or only weak muscles," said Tiago da Silva Alexandre, a professor at the Department of Gerontology, Center for Biological and Health Sciences, Federal University of Sao Carlos (CCBS-UFSCar), and last author of a paper on the study.
The study analysed data for 2,294 individuals aged 60 or more who participated in the English Longitudinal Study of ageing (ELSA). It was supported by FAPESP via a Young Investigator Grant and a PhD scholarship.
The participants were divided into four groups based on their ELSA data for gait speed and muscle weakness (dynapenia): neither dynapenic nor abdominally obese, abdominally obese only, dynapenic…