Study Finds Midriff Bulge Can Lead to Frailty in Older Age: Exercise Can Help Counteract Effects

A new study has found that midriff bulge — that expanding waistline — can lead to physical frailty in older age. Carrying too much weight from middle age onwards is linked to a heightened risk of physical frailty in later years, according to research published in the open access journal BMJ Open. The findings echo those of previous long-term studies, which tracked weight changes and frailty risk over the long term.

The study followed 4,509 people who were 45 or older in Norway over more than two decades.[0] Those who were obese in 1994, assessed by BMI alone, were nearly 2.5 times more likely to be pre-frail or frail at the end of the monitoring period than those with a normal BMI.[1] Individuals with a moderately high or high waist circumference had 57% and double the likelihood of being classified as pre-frail or frail in comparison to those with a normal waistline.[2]

There are several plausible biological explanations for the findings, the researchers suggest.[1] These include the increased inflammatory capacity of fat cells and their infiltration into muscle cells, both of which likely boost naturally occurring age-related decline in muscle mass and strength, so heightening the risk of frailty.[2]

The authors conclude that it is important to monitor both general weight gain and any expansion of waist circumference, as well as to broaden the definition of frailty.[0] Physical activity can help to reduce the increasing frailty that is associated with aging.[0] According to the Physical Activity Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should engage in strengthening exercises that target all major muscle groups at least two days a week, in addition to performing moderate-intensity exercise for a minimum of two hours and thirty minutes each week.[0]

Dr. Nieca Goldberg, the medical director of Atria New York City and clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, has previously stated to CNN that reducing body fat and building lean muscle can help improve balance and posture.[0] In order to maintain your overall health and fitness, incorporate both aerobic and strength training into your workout regimen. Dana Santas, a mind-body coach in professional sports and contributor to CNN fitness, recommends mastering bodyweight exercises before progressing to free weights if you are just starting out with strength training.

The study authors caution that this is an observational study, which did not track potentially influential changes in lifestyle, diet, and friendship networks that might have occurred during the monitoring period.[3]

0. “Diaphragmatic bulge linked to later physical decline, study says” know news, 24 Jan. 2023, https://knownews.in/latest-news/diaphragmatic-bulge-linked-to-later-physical-decline-study-says/

1. “Carrying a pot belly or muffin top can double the risk for frailty during old age” Study Finds, 24 Jan. 2023, https://studyfinds.org/obesity-double-risk-for-frailty

2. “Fat and frail: Being overweight in middle age more than doubles chances of being a frail pensioner” Daily Mail, 23 Jan. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-11667163/Fat-frail-overweight-middle-age-doubles-chances-frail-pensioner.html

3. “Midlife obesity linked to heightened frailty risk in older age” Medical Xpress, 23 Jan. 2023, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2023-01-midlife-obesity-linked-heightened-frailty.html