Certain physical changes are tell-tale signs of advanced age, from silver hair to lines and wrinkles. Many people also find that as they get older, they also get wider. Excess weight gain can occur young and old alike, but it commonly accompanies the aging process.
“Excess weight raises your risks for conditions like arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease,” says Kari Fabian, MD, internal medicine physician at Stellis Health. “We can all benefit by understanding weight management challenges and solutions as we age.”
Check out the answers to frequently asked questions on the subject.
How Does Advancing Age Affect the Body?
As the body ages, its metabolic rate often declines to some degree. This decline may stem from reductions in hormone production. In men, for example, an age-related reduction in testosterone production can promote weight gain. Additionally, post-menopausal women may find that hormonal changes have contributed to weight gain.
Other age-related factors can also encourage weight gain in seniors. For example, painful chronic joint problems such as osteoarthritis may prompt many seniors to lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Seniors may also struggle to get a good night’s sleep, which can cause food cravings that lead to weight gain.
Why Do Seniors Struggle to Lose Excess Weight?
You may find it harder to burn off those extra pounds as a senior than you did in your youth. This challenge occurs partly from the body’s increasing resistance to both the leptin and thyroid hormone, two substances essential for regulating your metabolism and energy usage.
Practical considerations can also stand between seniors and their weight loss goals. For example, many seniors give up cooking at home in favor of dining out, which sets the stage for overeating. The extra weight may also affect your balance and mobility, making it that much harder for you to burn off unwanted calories.
What Kinds of Exercise Can Promote Weight Loss Gently and Safely?
To start, your physician can recommend exercises that suit your current weight, mobility, and overall state of health. Both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise may prove helpful for senior weight loss.
But no matter what routine you follow, the first step in any exercise routine should involve gentle stretches. These exercises loosen and lengthen the muscles, reducing the odds of a painful strain or other exercise injury. Stretches can also improve joint flexibility and range of motion.
Aerobic exercises may include simple activities like walking, swimming, golfing, and gardening. (You can even perform aerobics while seated). You’ll want to start slow, and focus on elevating your heart rate for no more than five minutes. Stop and rest if you feel weak, dizzy, or breathless, or if you experience chest pains.
Strength training can also enhance your weight loss and weight management efforts. As the body builds muscle, those larger muscles burn more calories, raising your overall metabolism. Strong muscles also help support the body, improve your balance and make exercise an even safer way to lose weight.
How Can Dietary Changes Make Weight Loss Easier?
Your older body may simply not need the calories that it once did when you lived a more active life and burned energy more readily. Since restaurant meals can make calorie counting a challenge, get back into or stay in the habit of preparing your own meals, and consult labels carefully to keep your calorie count under control.
A shift in your dietary preferences may also make weight management easier. Because of this, you should place a new emphasis on vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains, avoiding fatty, sugary, or starchy foods that offer nothing but calories. Get lots of protein, and drink plenty of water. And always consult your doctor before modifying your diet.
What Other Changes Can Help You Manage the Weight?
Don’t feel alarmed if you have trouble managing your weight despite your best efforts to eat and exercise properly. Your physician may prescribe other measures that can help, from changing your sleep habits and reducing stress to undergoing hormone supplementation therapy.
Our primary care services at Stellis Health can help you maintain your best health and wellness at any age. Contact any of our offices today.