Health

How to fight weight gain as you age

You want to be healthy, not frail. For older adults, what matters most is how active you are and whether you can do all your everyday activities. While it’s important to stay at a healthy weight, how much of your weight is muscle instead of fat is also key. Your doctor can tell you if your weight is on track.

Starting in your 20s, you burn about 150 fewer calories per day. A big reason is that your body starts to shift its makeup — more fat and less muscle — if you’re not active. Muscles burn more calories than fat, so if you let your muscles go, you won’t burn as many calories as you used to.

You can keep your weight steady as you age. It does get harder, but it’s possible. Those corners you cut when you were younger (huge portions, happy hours, little to no exercise)? You can’t get away with them anymore. But age doesn’t have to equal weight gain.

Aging changes your body. Your metabolism slows down. You have to work harder to keep your muscle mass. So even if you’re eating exactly the way you did when you were younger, age-related changes stack the deck in favor of gaining weight. Food still matters, but it’s not shifting the numbers on your scale by itself.

Menopause is when a woman stops having menstrual periods. It happens around age 51 on average. Around the same age, many people — women and men — find that they’re gaining weight. The biggest reasons for the extra pounds are a slower metabolism and less muscle mass, not menopause. Exercise still helps!

At any age, the number of calories you should get each day depends on how active you are. In this case, “moderately active” means walking 1.5 to 3 miles a day at 3 or 4 miles per hour. “Very active” would be walking more than 3 miles a day at that pace.

When you lose muscle as you get older, doctors call that condition sarcopenia. The fix for it is exercise and nutrition.

You can save muscle mass by strength training. You can use weight machines at a gym or handheld weights, resistance bands, or your own body weight (think yoga poses, pushups, squats, and other basic moves). Get a certified trainer to show you how to do the moves right.

When some older adults lose their appetites, it might be partly because their senses of taste and smell aren’t what they used to be. Tasty food can help with this – and good company at meals can, too.

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