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Exercise Benefits in Abdominally-Obese Older Adults

On my last day at the Asia-Oceanic Conference on Obesity, I listened to Steve Smith from the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, Baton Rouge, LA, talk about the myriad benefits of exercise on skeletal muscle and other tissues (including adipose tissue itself).

Relevant in this context is a new study by Queen’s University researchers from Kingston, Ontario published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In this study, Lance Davidson and colleagues studied 136 sedentary, abdominally obese older men and women who were randomized to 6 months of resistance exercise (3 x 20 min bouts for a total of 60 min/week), aerobic exercise (5 x 30 min on a treadmill for a total of 150 min/week), aerobic and resistance exercise (3 x 30 min on a treadmill + 20 min of resistance exercise for a total of 150 min/week ), or a nonexercise control group.

Great care was taken to maintain dietary caloric intake at baseline levels in order to ensure that any caloric deficit was produced by the exercise regimen alone. 

After controlling for age, sex, and baseline value, insulin resistance (as measured by euglycemic glucose clamp) improved compared with controls in the aerobic exercise and the combined exercise groups but not in the resistance exercise group. The greatest improvements were seen in the combined exercise group (~30%).

While there were significant improvements in functional limitations in in all exercise groups compared with the control group, improvements were greatest in the combined exercise group and were most pronounced in those who both lost abdominal fat and gained muscle mass.

In both the aerobic exercise and combined exercise groups total fat decreased by around 3.5 Kg and visceral fat decreased by about 1 Kg, but neither total nor visceral fat levels changed significantly in the resistance exercise or control group.

Not surprisingly, the researchers conclude that the combination of resistance and aerobic exercise is the optimal exercise strategy for simultaneous reduction in abdominal fat, insulin resistance and improving functional limitations in sedentary, abdominally obese older adults.

Thus, this study provides clear evidence for what I (and others) have long recommended to patients (not just the elderly): regular aerobic exercise combined with resistance training are an essential part of weight management.

Mumbai, India


  1. Hi Arya,

    Thanks for promoting our lab’s work – a large amount of sweat and tears over a span of 5 years went into making this study happen.

    I also posted on the study on our blog ( today from a different perspective, focusing more on the experience of the participants. I encourage your readers to check it out to see an example of the personal side to the research we often post about.

    It is very easy to forget that for every study we discuss on our blogs, some poor researcher or group of researchers spent countless hours performing the experiments, and many volunteers spent hours upon hours participating in the study – both groups making huge peronal sacrifices for the good of science.


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  2. Greetings Arya,
    Thanks for informing me of these results. I will add to your observations and say this shows the importance of visceral fat in mediating insulin resistance.

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  3. Arya, I agree 100% with this study. Started working with a trainer last year combining cardio and weights (as well as diet modification) and it has made a difference……esp. to the mid section. I have been giving the same advice ever since

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  4. Greetings Dr. Sharma,

    I can attest to the necessity of weight training and balance exercises along with raw whole food for nutrition as it was this regimen that caused you to discontinue my appointments with you. My weight was critical with 39% FAT. After one year at my daughters gym I was down to 26% body FAT. According to our calculations I lost 40 pounds of FAT and gained 20 pounds of muscle. The 20 pounds has stayed off three years later and we have incorporated a fist size of protien with the three meals. The lost sense of balance incorpoated with weight training and raw whole food nutrition supplemented with three portions of protein has definetly been a total life change for my wife and I.

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  1. Dr. Sharma’s Obesity Notes » Blog Archive » Exercise Dose and Quality of Life - [...] this week I blogged about the recent study from Kingston on the benefits of exercise in older adults with…

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