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Weight Maintenance Linked With Longevity

Large study highlights a key to exceptional longevity among older women.

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Older woman exercising for weight maintenance

Weight maintenance, rather than weight loss, is more significant to achieving exceptional longevity—reaching 90, 95 or 100 years—among women over 60. University of California San Diego researchers analyzed data from the multi-institutional Women’s Health Initiative study with more than 54,000 women, of which 56% survived to age 90 or more. Weight loss of ≥5% was associated with lower odds of longevity when compared with stable weight; this was more true for unintentional weight loss.

Unless a client is following specific medical advice to lose weight, fitness pros may want to remind older adults, and women in particular, of the benefits of exercise for health, rather than focusing on weight loss. “It is very common for older women in the United States to experience overweight or obesity with a body mass index range of 25 to 35. Our findings support stable weight as a goal for longevity in older women,” says lead study author Aladdin H. Shadyab, PhD, MPH, associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego. Gaining 5% or more weight, compared to keeping weight stable, was not linked to exceptional longevity. This is the first large longitudinal study to look at weight maintenance and changes in later life and its connection with exceptional longevity.

The research is reported in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences (2023; doi:10.1093/Gerona/glad177).

See also: Metabolism and Weight Management


Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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