It’s important to maintain a healthy weight as you age.
Excess weight combined with the strain of aging can make you more susceptible
to illness and shorten your life. For middle age and older individuals, poor
lifestyle habits and changes in metabolism can make weight loss difficult.
In your teens, 20s, and 30s, you may have noticed that
excess weight came off easily. For example, you may have only needed minor
changes to your eating habits and activity levels to lose weight. Losing weight
requires more effort as you reach middle age due to the following factors.
Your muscle tissue naturally shrinks and loses mass as you
age. The exact reason for this is unknown. It seems that wear and tear on the
muscles, combined with hormonal changes, may make the body less efficient at
replenishing damaged muscle cells. When your muscle cells diminish, unburned
calories are more likely to become fat.
Weight loss can also be more difficult for the following
- Your muscles, ligaments, and tendons may become
rigid with age and may lose tone, even with regular exercise.
- You may have limited strength and endurance for
According to the Mayo
Clinic, the hormonal changes of menopause don’t necessarily trigger weight
gain in women. They can, however, change where fat is stored. As a result,
excess weight accumulates in the abdomen, rather than the hips and thighs. Combined
with the emotional effects of hormonal changes, this can lead to poor dietary
and activity choices.
Also, hormonal changes in aging men and women may contribute
to muscle loss. This muscle loss can decrease movement and slow metabolism.
As you age, you may not be able to do activities you once
enjoyed. For example, you may need to trade running for walking, weight lifting
for yoga, and hiking for swimming. Although low-impact activities are still
effective, you may need to do them more often, or for longer periods, to
achieve the same results. This can be hard if you’re used to a set amount of
time for exercise.
Sometimes, older individuals may have health limitations
that reduce or eliminate their ability to be active. Others may assume they’re
too old for exercise, and avoid activity all together.
You may experience many lifestyle changes, both good and
bad, as you age. Retirement may dramatically reduce the amount of physical
activity you get on a daily basis. After working throughout life, you may see
this period as an extended vacation. Relaxation like this can lead to
over-indulgence in unhealthy foods without the benefit of daily exercise.
You may also face challenges as a growing number of friends
fall ill or die as they age. This can lead to emotional eating and less focus
on staying active.
It’s important to stay fit if you’re overweight or gaining
weight as you approach middle age. As your body fat or waist circumference
increases, you may be at risk for the following serious conditions:
Many of these conditions are a threat if you’re overweight,
no matter your age. If you don’t have any of these conditions by middle age,
your risk may increase if you remain overweight. This is because your organs
and muscles age, and excess weight strains your body. If you have any of these
conditions at middle age, they may become harder to manage if you don’t lose
You’re more likely to struggle with losing weight as you age
if your parents were overweight later in life. Your weight problems may
re-emerge, persist, or get worse with age if you have a history of being
overweight or obese.
Annual physical exams are important. Your doctor will
monitor your weight and screen for problems that may be more easily treated if
they’re identified early.
Your doctor may make suggestions to help you lose weight.
These could include:
- following a specific diet or weight loss program
- following an exercise program or joining a gym
- identifying which physical activities are safe
for your age and health profile
- assigning a target weight that is realistic for
your body type
In some cases, your doctor may refer you to specialists in
areas such as dietetics, physical therapy, cardiovascular health, and
chiropractic care. These health professionals may offer more help with
customizing a healthy diet and lifestyle for you. They may also recommend
exercises to help you get active.
Weight Loss Surgery
If you are morbidly
obese, your doctor may suggest weight loss surgery. Morbid obesity means
you weigh 100 pounds over your ideal weight or you have a body mass index (BMI)
of 35 or more.
Weight loss surgery reduces the size of your stomach,
usually with a band or sutures. Your doctor will decide if you’re a good
candidate for surgery based on:
- your current weight
- your weight loss history
- your age
- your health and any additional disorders
If you have weight loss surgery, you may receive nutritional
counseling to help maintain a healthy weight long-term. As with any surgery,
there are risks of complications. Most doctors don’t recommend weight lost
surgery unless diet and exercise have failed and you’re at risk for
obesity-related health problems.