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Diaphragm bulge linked to later physical decline, study says

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Editor’s note: Seek advice from a health professional before starting an exercise program.


If you are a man or woman in your late 50s, look at your belly. If you’re like most people, you might have to bend over a bit to see your feet. Yep, it’s that awful diaphragm bulge – that expanding waistline that can often creep in as you age, as well as a receding hairline or extra wrinkles.

Hard to fight, it almost feels like a rite of passage, just part of the cycle of life, right? But a new study finds that allowing your belly to expand will do more than send you shopping for the next size in pants—it can also hurt your physical abilities later in life.

The study, which followed 4,509 people age 45 and older in Norway for over two decades found that participants who had a high or moderately high waist circumference at baseline were 57% more likely to be “frail” than those with a normal waist.

But frailty is not the “wobbly” old man bent over a cane that comes to mind. Rather, frailty includes poor grip strength, slower walking speed, general exhaustion, unintentional weight loss, and low physical activity.

People who were obese at baseline, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, were also 2.5 times more likely to be frail than those with a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9 ), according to the study published January 23, 2023, in the journal BMJ Open.

There could be several reasons, according to the study authors. Obesity leads to increased inflammation in fat cells, which can damage muscle fibers “resulting in reduced muscle strength and function,” study co-author Shreeshti Uchai, a doctoral researcher in nutritional epidemiology at the University of Oslo in Tromsø, Norway, and her colleagues wrote.

Combat diaphragm bulge to be healthy and active as you age, study says.

The results highlight the need to track overall weight gain and any increase in waist circumference and broaden the definition of frailty, the authors concluded.

“In the context of a rapidly aging population and an increasing obesity epidemic, increasing evidence recognizes the ‘fat and frail’ subgroup of elderly individuals as opposed to viewing frailty solely as a wasting disorder,” they wrote.

Exercise can help combat the increasing frailty that aging can bring. Adults should perform muscle-strengthening exercises involving all major muscle groups on at least two or more days a week, in addition to exercising at least two hours and 30 minutes a week at moderate intensity, according to the Department of Health and Services US humans. ‘ Physical activity guidelines for Americans.

Reducing body fat and building lean muscle can help improve balance and posture, Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and associate clinical professor of medicine at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.

To stay strong and healthy, try to do both cardio and strength exercises.

They “seem to work together and help each other get better results,” said Dr. William Roberts, professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. “A balanced program of strength and aerobic activity is probably better and likely more closely mimics the activities of our ancestors, which helped determine our current gene pools.”

To get started with strength exercises, CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, a mind-body coach in professional sports, suggests mastering bodyweight moves before moving on to free weights.

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