Advice for Seniors Who Want to Safely Lose or Maintain Their Weight

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Getting older has its benefits: You’re more comfortable with yourself, and you’ve learned not to sweat the small stuff. Unfortunately, for most people, weight loss rarely gets easier with time.

Older Americans are suffering from poor nutrition at staggering rates, and lacking critical nutrients weakens muscles and bones and increases vulnerability to diseases. If you’re worried that your weight is creeping up, here are some tips on how to safely lose and maintain a healthy weight.

Put the Scale Away

Weight loss is less important than fat loss. Remember, when fat melts away and makes room for muscle mass, this new muscle adds weight to your body. Consider investing in a body fat measurement tool, or just measure your waist. Your waist should measure no more than half of your height. If you’re a 5’10” man (70 inches tall), your waist should measure 35”. If you’re a petite 5’2” woman (62 inches tall), your waist circumference should be 31”.

Drink Water

When you age, you’re more likely to need to use the bathroom more frequently, and yes, that gets annoying. However, your digestive system and metabolism both depend on water to work. Plus, your body often thinks it’s hungry when really, it’s thirsty. So, sip throughout the day. Not a water person? Here are 12 easy ways to drink more water every day.

Adjust What You Eat

You burn fewer calories as you age, because muscle mass decreases from 45 percent of your body weight to 27 percent by age 70. For some people, body fat doubles even if their weight stays the same.

How Stuff Works offers some great tips on eating well as you age. Your protein and fat requirements change, and while carbohydrates taste delicious, you’ll want to watch how you’re getting that 55 to 60 percent of daily recommended calories from them. You can take a multivitamin, but most of the vitamins and minerals you need can come from eating the right foods.

Don’t Forget to Stretch

Stretching is critical to warming up your muscles before you exercise. Plus, it increases your flexibility, which means you’ll be less likely to hurt yourself or suffer from daily aches and pains. You can start your day with stretches in bed and add a few in throughout the day.

Incorporate Strength Training into Your Exercise Routine

Muscle mass decreases with age, and muscle loss also leads to a slower metabolism. You can counteract those effects by lifting weights when you exercise. You don’t need a ton of weight to start, but you’ll want to gradually increase the resistance as you progress. Personal trainers say that you know you’ve got the right amount of weight when you’re just able to make it to the end of your reps before you have to rest.

You don’t have to do strength training every day. Adding it two or three times a week should be perfect. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends two sets of 10 repetitions for each exercise you do.

Add a Home Gym

Set aside some space to dedicate to work out at home. A home gym costs less and is just as useful as a regular gym. You only need to invest in a few pieces to get started:

  • Strength training – weight benches, power towers, dumbbells
  • Aerobics/cardio – treadmill, stationary cycle, elliptical
  • Core training – rowing machine, gym ball, ab trainer

Move Every Day

Seniors often move less than their younger, more active counterparts, and that inactivity can lead to increased weight gain. You should shoot for 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day. Start with low-impact exercises, which protect aging joints. Suggestions include:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Total body resistance exercise (TRX)
  • Elliptical machine training
  • Tai chi
  • Indoor cycling

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) agree that regular physical activity, including cardio and strength-training, promotes healthy aging and reduces the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Managing your fitness as you age helps you to maintain a higher quality of life and keeps your brain sharper, too.