Obesity and mobility disability in the older adult

Obes Rev. 2010 Aug;11(8):568-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2009.00703.x. Epub 2009 Jan 6.


Mobility disability is becoming prevalent in the obese older population (> or = 60 years of age). We included a total of 13 cross-sectional and 15 longitudinal studies based on actual physical assessments of mobility in the obese older population in this review. We systematically examined existing evidence of which adiposity estimate best predicted mobility disability. Cross-sectional studies (82-4000 participants) showed poorer lower extremity mobility with increasing obesity severity in both men and women. All longitudinal studies (1-22 years) except for one, reported relationships between adiposity and declining mobility. While different physical tests made interpretation challenging, a consistent finding was that walking, stair climbing and chair rise ability were compromised with obesity, especially if the body mass index (BMI) exceeded 35 kg m(-2). More studies found that obese women were at an increased risk for mobility impairment than men. Existing evidence suggests that BMI and waist circumference are emerging as the more consistent predictors of the onset or worsening of mobility disability. Limited interventional evidence shows that weight loss is related with increased mobility and lower extremity function. Additional longitudinal studies are warranted that address overall body composition fat and muscle mass or change on future disability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Risk Factors
  • Walking / physiology*