BACKGROUND: and aims Cross-sectional studies suggest that obstructive lung disease (OLD) and smoking affect lean mass and mobility. A study was undertaken to investigate whether OLD and smoking accelerate the ageing-related decline in lean mass and physical functioning. METHODS: 260 patients with OLD (mean+/-SD forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) 63+/-18% predicted), 157 smoking controls (FEV(1) 95+/-16% predicted), 866 former-smoking controls (FEV1 100+/-16% predicted) and 891 never-smoking controls (FEV1 104+/-17% predicted) participating in the Health, Aging and Body Composition (ABC) Study were studied. At baseline the mean age was 74+/-3 years and participants reported no functional limitations. Baseline and 7-year longitudinal data of body composition (by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry), muscle strength (by hand and leg dynamometry) and Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) were investigated. RESULTS: Compared with never-smoking controls, patients with OLD and smoking controls had a significantly lower weight, fat mass, lean mass and bone mineral content (BMC) at baseline (p<0.05). While the loss of weight, fat mass, lean mass and strength was comparable between patients with OLD and never-smoking controls, the SPPB declined 0.12 points/year faster in men with OLD (p=0.01) and BMC declined 4 g/year faster in women with OLD (p=0.02). In smoking controls only lean mass declined 0.1 kg/year faster in women (p=0.03) and BMC 8 g/year faster in men (p=0.02) compared with never-smoking controls. CONCLUSIONS: Initially well-functioning older adults with mild-to-moderate OLD and smokers without OLD have a comparable compromised baseline profile of body composition and physical functioning, while 7-year longitudinal trajectories are to a large extent comparable to those observed in never-smokers without OLD. This suggests a common insult earlier in life related to smoking.