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Healthy Hint

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Do It Right (Weight Loss)

Could losing weight harm obese older people by causing them to lose muscle and bone? Not if they do the right kind of exercise.

Scientists randomly assigned 141 obese, sedentary people aged 65 or older to a control group (which got healthy eating advise) or to a weight-loss diet plus one of three exercise programs, aerobic, strength training, or both. The diet cut 500 to 750 calories a day.

After six months, all three diet plus exercise groups had lost the same weight (about 20 pounds). However, those who got strength training (with or without aerobic exercise) gained the most strength and lost the least muscle and bone. And those who got aerobic exercise (with or without strength training) got the biggest increase in aerobic fitness.

What to do: Do both aerobic and strength training, no matter your age or fitness. The combination group in the study had three weekly exercise sessions. including 30 to 40 minutes each of aerobic and strength training plus 10 minutes each of flexibility and balance.