Background The incidence of obesity is increasing in older adults, with associated worsening in the burden of disability. Little is known about the impact of body mass index (BMI) on self-report and performance-based balance and mobility measures in older adults.
Objective The purposes of this study were (1) to examine the association of BMI with measures of balance and mobility and (2) to explore potential explanatory factors.
Design This was a cross-sectional, observational study.
Methods Older adults (mean age=77.6 years) who participated in an ongoing observational study (N=120) were classified as normal weight (BMI=18.5–24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI=25.0–29.9 kg/m2), moderately obese (BMI=30.0–34.9 kg/m2), or severely obese (BMI≥35 kg/m2). Body mass index data were missing for one individual; thus, data for 119 participants were included in the analysis. Mobility and balance were assessed using self-report and performance-based measures and were compared among weight groups using analysis of variance and chi-square analysis for categorical data. Multiple linear regression analysis was used to examine the association among BMI, mobility, and balance after controlling for potential confounding variables.
Results Compared with participants who were of normal weight or overweight, those with moderate or severe obesity were less likely to report their mobility as very good or excellent (52%, 55%, 39%, and 6%, respectively); however, there was no difference in self-report of balance among weight groups. Participants with severe obesity (n=17) had the lowest levels of mobility on the performance-based measures, followed by those who were moderately obese (n=31), overweight (n=42), and of normal weight (n=29). There were no differences on performance-based balance measures among weight groups. After controlling for age, sex, minority status, physical activity level, education level, and comorbid conditions, BMI still significantly contributed to mobility (β=−.02, adjusted R2=.41).
Conclusions Although older adults with severe obesity were most impaired, those with less severe obesity also demonstrated significant decrements in mobility.
Dr Hergenroeder and Dr Brach provided concept/idea/research design and data analysis. All authors provided writing. Mr Wert, Dr Hile, and Dr Brach provided project management. Dr Studenski and Dr Brach provided fund procurement and facilities/equipment. Dr Brach provided participants. Mr Wert and Dr Studenski provided consultation (including review of manuscript before submission).
This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Pittsburgh.
This work was presented on at Physical Therapy 2009: APTA's Annual Conference & Exposition; June 12, 2009; Baltimore, Maryland.
This research was funded by The University of Pittsburgh Older Americans Independence Center (grant P30 AG024827). Dr Brach was supported by a Paul B. Beeson Career Development Award (K23 AG026766). Dr Studenski was supported by the National Institute on Aging (grant K07 AG023641).
- Received June 25, 2010.
- Accepted April 17, 2011.
- © 2011 American Physical Therapy Association