Study explores early detection of functional decline in men

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New research investigates whether decline in functional physical performance when doing daily activities is worse in individuals with dynapenic abdominal obesity and how a person’s sex may be related.

The study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was conducted at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar) in Brazil in collaboration with researchers at University College London.

Investigators analyzed data of 3,875 individuals aged 60 and older who were monitored for eight years by the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). They evaluated participants doing activities such as sitting down and getting up from a chair, standing still, and walking a short distance. They were scored according to the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). The battery covers gait speed while walking 2.4 meters, static balance, and a chair sit-to-stand test, among other metrics.

The study revealed impairment of physical performance mostly in men with abdominal obesity as well as age-associated loss of muscle strength. The study identified dynapenic abdominal obesity in men with a waist circumference of more than 102 centimeters (cm) and handgrip of less than 26 kilograms(kg); the corresponding criteria for women were 88 cm or more and less than 16 kg, respectively. Handgrip was measured using a dynamometer.

In addition, neither abdominal obesity nor dynapenia on their own was associated with declining physical performance over time in elderly men and women, showing that assessing these two conditions separately rather than the phenotype of dynapenia abdominal obesity may underestimate the problem of age-related functional decline, according to the study.

“The clinical importance of these findings is that although dynapenic abdominal obesity is an age-related condition, it is potentially modifiable and neglecting it has major repercussions for functional status, especially in men,” said Tiago da Silva Alexandre, PhD, in a statement.

According to Alexandre, the 2020 World Health Organization guidelines recommend that men aged 65 or more should regularly perform a number of aerobic exercises and muscle-strengthening activities. They should get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week. As part of their weekly physical activity, they should also practice strength training of all the main muscle groups on three or more days each week.