Background: Prior studies suggest being overweight may be protective against poor functional outcomes in older adults.
Methods: Body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) was measured over 25 years across five visits (1987-2011) among Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study participants (baseline Visit 1 n = 15,720, aged 45-64 years). Gait speed was measured at Visit 5 ("late-life", aged ≥65 years, n = 6,229). BMI trajectories were examined using clinical cutpoints and continuous mixed models to estimate effects of patterns of BMI change on gait speed, adjusting for demographics and comorbidities.
Results: Mid-life BMI (baseline visit; 55% women; 27% black) was associated with late-life gait speed 25 years later; gait speeds were 94.3, 89.6, and 82.1 cm/s for participants with baseline normal BMI (<25), overweight (25 ≤ BMI < 30), and obese (BMI ≥ 30) (p < .001). In longitudinal analyses, late-life gait speeds were 96.9, 88.8, and 81.3 cm/s for participants who maintained normal, overweight, and obese weight status, respectively, across 25 years (p < .01). Increasing BMI over 25 years was associated with poorer late-life gait speeds; a 1%/year BMI increase for a participant with a baseline BMI of 22.5 (final BMI 28.5) was associated with a 4.6-cm/s (95% confidence interval: -7.0, -1.8) slower late-life gait speed than a participant who maintained a baseline BMI of 22.5.
Conclusion: Being overweight in older age was not protective of mobility function. Maintaining a normal BMI in mid- and late-life may help preserve late-life mobility.
Keywords: Longitudinal; Mobility; Overweight.
© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Gerontological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com.