Why having fat thighs can lead to a doddery old age
People with fat around their thigh muscles had lower walking speeds later in lifeLower walking speed is a good predictor of disability risk in old age

Claire Bates


17:06 GMT, 26 February 2013



17:06 GMT, 26 February 2013

People with wobbly thighs should take note – carrying extra fat around your upper leg makes it far harder to walk in old age.

Researchers said those who want to keep up a brisk pace in retirement should slim down at the same time as toning up their legs.

Their study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found the bigger a healthy adult's thighs, the more likely they were to lose their mobility.

On the move: Having slim thighs could increase your chances of enjoying an independent old age

On the move: Having slim thighs could increase your chances of enjoying an independent old age

Walking speed declines with age and in older adults slower walking speed is a predictor of
disability, nursing home admission and even death.


Warm up for a few minutes first by marching on the spot and digging your heels in front of you one at a time.

1: SQUATS (2 sets of 15 repetitions)

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands down by your
sides or stretched out in front for extra balance.

Lower yourself by
bending your knees until they are nearly at a right angle, with your
thighs parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and don’t let your
knees extend over your toes.

2:LUNGES (15 reps for each leg)

Stand in a split stance with your right leg forward and left leg back.
Slowly bend the knees, lowering into a lunge until both legs are nearly
at right angles.

Keeping the weight in your heels, push back up to
starting position. Keep your back straight and don’t let your knees
extend over toes.

3: CALF RAISES (2 sets of 15 reps)

Stand straight but avoid locking your legs. Slowly move onto your toes
lifting your heels off the ground and then slowly lower your heels back
down. Place hands on a wall or chair for stability.

For more of a
challenge, do these calf raises away from the wall and with a weight in
each hand, such as two water bottles.


As such walking speed represents a potential predictor of ill health that could be tackled early on.

A team led by Dr Kristen Beavers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre, in North Carolina, decided to study whether a person's thigh fat could predict their rate of decline.

Dr Beavers, said: 'As people age, they are more likely to
gain fat in and around their muscles, and we speculated that gaining fat
in the leg muscle itself would be related to slowed walking speed.'

The team studied a sample of 2,306 men and women, with a mean age of 74.6 years.

Walking speed was assessed by measuring the usual time it took participants to complete a 20-minute walk, and they were tested annually over a four-year period. Body composition measures were assessed via a CT scan.

The results found older adults who gained the most thigh fat and lost the most thigh muscle were at greatest risk of experiencing a clinically meaningful decline in walking speed.

Dr Beavers said: 'As the burden of disability becomes increasingly common and expensive, identification of modifiable contributors to functional decline in older adults is emerging as a significant priority of public health research.

'Future studies building on these findings should test whether targeted reductions in thigh intermuscular fat, augmentation of thigh muscle area, or both yield improvements in walking speed and prolonged independence for older adults.'