Higher levels of physical fitness are associated with a reduced risk of suffering sarcopenic obesity and better perceived health among the elderly: the EXERNET multi-center study

J Nutr Health Aging. 2015 Feb;19(2):211-7. doi: 10.1007/s12603-014-0530-4.


Objective: To evaluate the associations between physical fitness levels, health related quality of life (HRQoL) and sarcopenic obesity (SO) and to analyze the usefulness of several physical fitness tests as a screening tool for detecting elderly people with an increased risk of suffering SO.

Design: Cross-sectional analysis of a population-based sample.

Setting: Non-institutionalized Spanish elderly participating in the EXERNET multi-centre study.

Participants: 2747 elderly subjects aged 65 and older.

Measurements: Body weight, height and body mass index were evaluated in each subject. Body composition was measured by bioelectrical impedance. Four SO groups were created based on percentage of body fat and relative muscle mass; 1) normal group, 2) sarcopenic group, 3) obesity group and 4) SO group. Physical fitness was evaluated using 8 tests (balance, lower and upper body strength, lower and upper body flexibility, agility, walking speed and aerobic capacity). Three tertiles were created for each test based on the calculated scores. HRQoL was assessed using the EuroQol visual analogue scale.

Results: Participants with SO showed lower physical fitness levels compared with normal subjects. Better balance, agility, and aerobic capacity were associated to a lower risk of suffering SO in the fittest men (odds ratio < 0.30). In women, better balance, walking speed, and aerobic capacity were associated to a lower risk of suffering SO in the fittest women (odds ratio < 0.21) Superior perceived health was associated with better physical fitness performance.

Conclusions: Higher levels of physical fitness were associated with a reduced risk of suffering SO and better perceived health among elderly. SO elderly people have lower physical functional levels than healthy counterparts.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Composition
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscles / anatomy & histology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Sarcopenia / complications*
  • Sarcopenia / epidemiology
  • Sarcopenia / physiopathology
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Walking / physiology