We tend to think it’s much harder to lose weight as a senior — but it’s not true. Here’s how you can lose weight after 60.
Let’s say Susan, who is 70, needs to lose 60 pounds. Will it take her longer than it will for Sharon, who is only 50?
Most people would say yes, of course!
But a British study found that wasn’t so. Researchers randomly selected 242 patients who attended an obesity program run by an institute in Warwickshire, half between the ages of 60 and 78 and the other half under the age of 60. Then they compared their weight loss while involved with the program. It turned out that the older group cut their weight by 7.3 percent on average, over an average of 33.5 months in the program. The older group lost 6.9 percent and stayed in the program 41.5 months on average.
So, the older group lost more in less time.
To help the patients, most of whom were morbidly obese, the program focused on diet changes, emotional support, and encouraging physical activity.
There are more than 50 problems related to obesity that losing weight can improve — including diabetes, depression and anxiety, osteoporosis, and sleep apnea. Many of them are also associated with age. So as we get older, it’s more important to lose weight, lead author Dr. Thomas Barber of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick noted.
It was easier to lose weight in your 20s
The big shift actually comes around age 30, when your muscle mass dips, a process that speeds up at 40. Fat will replace the lost muscle, and you’ll require fewer calories for the same activity. Women also go through hormonal changes at menopause — sometime between 45 and the early 50s — that shift fat to the belly. Men have declines in testosterone that also put weight around their middle, but the change is more gradual.
That’s why we tend to gain weight as we move from our 30s to 50s. But at some point, most of us stop gaining, and we begin to lose weight in our 70s.
How to lose weight as you age
The best approach to stay slender and healthy as a senior is to maintain muscle. You can do that with movements that use your own body weight for resistance, for example when you do a plank, push-up, or squat. Pilates classes focus on your core muscles in the abdominal area. Balancing poses in yoga classes build strength as well.
It also helps to eat protein and vegetables, get enough sleep, and find ways to de-stress that don’t involve comfort food.
Younger people actually have it harder because our culture has shifted in ways that promote fat. It’s possible that long-term exposure to chemicals — in everything from plastic packaging to our food — has changed our endocrine systems in fat-promoting ways. Types of drugs that became increasingly popular like antidepressants, anti-allergy meds, and steroids can lead to weight gain. The gut bacteria in younger people may be pushing them towards higher BMIs.
October 22, 2021
Janet O’Dell, RN