Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Study Shows Diet-Exercise Combo Brings Improvement in Physical Function for Older Adults

March 30, 2011 -- Regular exercise plus diet may be more effective than either one alone at helping obese older adults improve physical function, a new study shows.

The combination resulted in greater improvements in strength, balance, and gait, compared with diet or exercise alone.

The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Diet and exercise together “improve physical function and quality of life, and one of the most important goals in this community is to maintain independence,” says study researcher Dennis T. Villareal, MD, chief of geriatrics at the New Mexico VA Healthcare System. Villareal is also a professor of medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

Testing Physical Abilities

The study followed 93 obese adults aged 65 and older. Those in the diet plus exercise group saw more gains in a test measuring physical abilities than study participants who were randomly assigned to diet or exercise alone.

Test scores for participants who took part in diet, exercise, or diet plus exercise were greater than scores for those in the comparison group who did not make any changes.

Participants in the diet group were asked to cut back on their daily calories with a goal of losing 10% of their body weight by six months and maintaining that loss for another six months. Those in the exercise group took part in three 90-minute group exercise sessions per week. The sessions included aerobic activity such as walking on a treadmill, indoor cycling, stair climbing, and flexibility and balance exercises.

Until now, there were more questions than answers about the benefits of diet and exercise in this group.

“Weight loss in this population could be more harmful than beneficial because it can result in loss of muscle mass and worsen physical function,” Villareal says.

Frailty is common in the obese elderly, he says.

“It is the worst of both worlds to be fat and frail because you need muscle to carry your body weight, but you have less muscle mass as you age,” he says.

All obese adults should receive clearance from their doctor before starting an exercise plan, Villareal says. “You need to make sure you don’t have any contraindications to exercise training such as heart disease.”

Exercise did increase the risk of injuries in the new study.

Healthy Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

Top searches: Chicken, Chocolate, Salad, Desserts, Soup

Heart Rate Calculator

Ensure you're exercising hard enough to get a good workout, but not strain your heart.

While you are exercising, you should count between...