Combining aerobic exercise and resistance training helps elderly, obese individuals preserve muscle mass and reverse frailty, a small clinical study has found.

Patients who completed a prescribed set of exercises increased muscle protein synthesis and preserved muscle quality while also working to lose weight.

Researchers used muscular biopsies and molecular and cellular techniques to examine the mechanisms that led to improvements in physical function and preservation of lean body mass among 47 participants ages 69 to 72.

Exercises included treadmill walking, stationary cycling and stair climbing at 65% of peak heart rate. Resistance training consisted of one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions on nine upper-body and lower-body machines.

Led by Dennis T. Villareal, professor and geriatric endocrinologist at Baylor College of Medicine, the researchers reported in Cell Metabolism that the combined aerobic and resistance approach was superior — the “host approach” — to doing either alone.