HEALTHY AGING

How to Keep Your Weight Down as You Age

By Katharine Paljug  @kpaljug
 | 
March 27, 2017

It can seem impossible to keep your weight down as you get older. But with a shift in a few everyday habits, it can be possible to maintain a healthy weight.

As you get older, your body composition changes. Studies have found that fat mass increases as muscle mass decreases with age, and many people begin to put on extra weight, especially around their abdomen.

It can seem impossible to keep your weight down as you get older. But with a shift in a few everyday habits, it can be possible to maintain a healthy weight — or even lose weight you’ve already gained — as you age.

 

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Aging and your metabolism

Your body’s metabolism slows down as you age, and this contributes to weight gain.

Your metabolism is made up of the chemical processes that occur in your body, processes that use — or “burn” — energy. Calories, either from food or fat stores, are the fuel that becomes this energy. As a result, people with a faster or more efficient metabolism use more calories on a daily basis and may gain weight less easily.

Studies on aging have shown that metabolic rate decreases with age, and this partly explains why you might gain weight more easily as you get older. However, this isn’t the whole story, because as you age you also need fewer calories to supply the energy your body uses.

Researchers have found that the energy balance of your body also changes, along with the mass of your muscles and bones. This means that your exercise and nutritional needs will change as well. Altering your habits to keep up with these changes is what will help you keep your weight down as you age.

Exercising as you age

As you age, your muscle mass, bone density, and lung capacity all decrease, which can make exercise feel more difficult and leave you less likely to get up and move around. If you are moving less, especially if you are not also eating less, you may gain weight.

If you want to keep your weight down, focus on two different types of exercise.

First, get aerobic exercise. This type of movement uses large muscle groups and increases both your heart rate and breathing. If you are used to exercising already, running or biking are good choices. If you have joint pain, swimming can be a comfortable option. Activities like gardening are also a good way to get aerobic exercise without feeling like you are working out.

 

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Second, you need weight bearing exercises. These exercises build muscle mass, burn calories, and increase bone density. Weight lifting, push-ups, and yoga are all weight bearing exercises, but so are daily activities like carrying groceries or pushing a lawnmower. Try to do some weight bearing exercise every day, focusing on different muscle groups each time.

Getting both aerobic and weight bearing exercise every week will help maintain a healthy balance of fat, muscle, and bone density in your body, which will help you keep your weight down. And as an added benefit, exercise will promote good balance and flexibility, keeping you healthier and more independent well into old age.

Healthy eating as you age

Daily or weekly exercise will help keep your weight down. But you should also pay attention to the food you eat.

As your metabolism slows and the fat mass in your body increases, you are more likely to gain weight from unhealthy or high-calorie food than you were when you were younger. To maintain a healthy weight as you age, you may need to change your daily diet. Not over-eating is a good place to start, but what you eat will also make an impact on your weight.

Researchers from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging found that “meat and potatoes” eaters, who consumed lots of red meat and few vegetables, were likely to have a higher body mass index as they aged. Older adults who ate lots of breads and pastas were likely to have greater waist circumference.

To stay slim and keep your weight down as you age, focus on eating a variety of healthy foods. These should include different fruits and vegetables, lots of fiber, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, lean meat, and legumes. Eat leafy green vegetables, use dairy and eggs as protein sources, and drink mostly water. You should also limit your intake of foods like white bread, soda, fast food, processed food, and red meat.

Getting older does not have to mean putting on weight. Regular exercise and healthy eating are just as beneficial at age 70 as they were at age 25. And if you have trouble making changes, you can always talk to your doctor to come up with a diet and exercise plan that will be healthiest for your body.

 

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Updated:  

March 27, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN