The Importance of Mid-to-Late-Life Body Mass Index Trajectories on Late-Life Gait Speed

Academic Article


  • 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.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Windham BG; Griswold ME; Wang W; Kucharska-Newton A; Demerath EW; Gabriel KP; Pompeii LA; Butler K; Wagenknecht L; Kritchevsky S
  • Start Page

  • 1130
  • End Page

  • 1136
  • Volume

  • 72
  • Issue

  • 8