Maintaining a healthy weight is important at any age. Those who pack on extra pounds may find themselves more at risk for a variety of health problems, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even some cancers. For seniors, changes in the metabolism, decreases in strength, muscle mass and flexibility, lower energy levels, plus chronic aches and pains can make it easy to gain weight over time.
However, while it may be a little bit tougher and take slightly more time to see results, seniors can lose weight as effectively as their younger counterparts.
Senior Weight Loss Secrets
The same weight loss rules everyone should follow also apply to seniors: eating a healthy diet that consists of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy while limiting empty calories from sugars, plus burning more calories daily than you consume. However, if you’re over the age of 60, there are a few additional senior weight loss tips to keep in mind:
Adjust your attitude. Gaining weight does not have to be just another downside of aging. While adding daily physical activity may present some challenges at first, it’s still important for seniors to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Try joining a senior fitness program so you can work out with your peers. Or, talk some friends into forming a walking group or taking some classes together like yoga or water aerobics. Making it a group affair also provides the added benefit of social interaction that helps seniors avoid loneliness and depression.
Change your eating habits. If your eating habits haven’t changed since you were in your 20s or 30s, you definitely can expect your weight to increase. This is because seniors need less calories overall; for example, a woman in her 50s only needs around 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day, depending on her level of activity. Instead, if you’re looking to lose weight, make sure you’re bumping up the amount of protein you eat. Protein not only helps support muscle growth and repair, but also keeps you feeling fuller longer than carbs and fats would.
Improve your strength and flexibility. Muscle mass decreases as you age; by age 50, you have 20 percent less muscle than you did in your 20s. By adding strength training exercises, you can get some of that muscle mass back. But don’t forget to add in stretching exercises to your routine, too! Stretching keeps you flexible and limber, and reduces your risk of injury in any workout.
Stay hydrated. Studies show that seniors are less likely to recognize when they are thirsty. Or, you may drink less than you need to avoid running to the bathroom all the time. However, your body can easily mistake thirst for hunger, which means you may turn to snacking on foods with little nutritional value. Try to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day; you can also get more water from foods like cucumbers or tomatoes that are naturally rich in water.
Patience is a virtue. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t losing weight right off the bat. Remember, you may not be able to work out for as long and as hard as you used to, and it may take time to increase the weights in your strength training exercises. However, seniors are just as able to reach a healthy weight as someone 40 years younger. Plus, try to focus more on losing fat, not necessarily weight, as muscle weighs more than fat! Invest in a body fat measurement tool, or take manual measurements of your waist, arms and hips as your progress to your goal.