Many people settle for having a belly at a certain age…
but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you’re over 60, being a little overweight may actually be beneficial, because being underweight increases one’s risk of malnutrition, osteoporosis, and falls. But you don’t want to be carrying too much excess weight!
If you’re very overweight or obese, you’re more likely to develop chronic diseases earlier in life, and obesity also makes it more difficult for older people to accomplish simple daily tasks.
Weight gain is a common “side effect” of aging, as your metabolism gradually slows down.
Sarcopenia, a decrease in muscle tissue that occurs with age, is a likely cause—but not the only one.
People also become less active as they get older, even more so if they have painful health issues that make getting around difficult. Burning less calories while still eating the same amount will make you gain weight, too.
To top it all off, prescription medications can be a culprit to substantial weight gain, and the older you are, the more you’re likely to require.
Baby Steps Are All You Need!
You probably don’t have to lose as much weight as you think to improve your health…
Losing just 5% of your weight improves your health and lowers your risk for several diseases. The effect can be considerable. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who lost just 7 percent of their weight had a 58 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It’s important to know how to lose weight the right way from the very start.
First tip: You can’t just cut calories. Unless it’s coupled with an exercise program, weight loss will result in muscle loss.
The best strategy combines calorie-burning, muscle-building, and dieting strategies. In a study in the journal Obesity, half the people who took a similar approach kept off at least 5 percent of the weight they lost for eight years!
Changing a diet has to be something you can stick with long-term, because if you return to the way you were eating before, you’ll likely gain back the weight… have you seen what’s happened to most of the former Biggest Loser contestants?
In order to eat more nutritiously
Half of every meal should be vegetables and fruits!
One Quarter should be starchy veggies, like sweet potatoes, or grains, such as wild rice, or oatmeal.
Another quarter should be clean protein (not a whole lot of dairy or deli meat). Use coconut oil to cook in the cleanest way possible.
Next, try simple changes—like cutting out added sugars. The National Institutes of Health—Body Weight Planner allows you to personalize the number of calories you need to eat to reach your goal weight.
Keep in mind, women need to take in at least 1,200 calories per day; men at least 1,300. When you don’t eat enough calories, it’s tough to get all the nutrients your body needs, plus it’s a guaranteed way to lose muscle and lower your resting metabolic rate—leading to difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.
Meet Goals for Nutrients
One must-have to keep focused on: PROTEIN.
As you age, your body needs more protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. On top of that, when you weight train, your body has more demand for protein to repair the muscle fiber damage you’re causing. As a healthy, active, resistance-training adult, aim for .8 to 1.5+ grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. To hit the target, eat eggs, fish, lean meat, or poultry at each meal. Vegans and Vegetarians – consider going pescatarian or flexitarian. (Although, a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that protein from any source—including plants—improves muscle health.)
Vitamin D and calcium are crucial for building and preserving bones, and they may be key for muscle health, too. Egg yolks contain small amounts of vitamin D, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna are among the best sources. Leafy green vegetables, such as bok choy and kale are rich in calcium.
The Importance of Exercise
Aerobic activity, such as walking or cycling, is tops for calorie burning. For example, walking for half an hour torches about 140 calories, depending on your weight.
Strength training, in this humble strength coach’s opinion, is actually more crucial for keeping off weight as you age. After age 40, you lose about 5 to 10 pounds of muscle per decade, which dramatically reduces how many calories your body burns.
Proper strength training will also help maintain bone density, strengthen joints, and improve mobility.
Resistance training helps offset that loss, and research shows that your resting metabolic rate stays elevated 5 to 9 percent for up to 72 hours after a session. That means if you work out with weights on only two days, you’ll reap the rewards of an elevated metabolism all week long!
Need help putting a routine together?!
You’re in the right place! Choose three lower-body moves (legs and glutes); three for your upper body (back, shoulders, and chest… arms will be taken care of automatically); and three for your core (abs and lower back). In our sample Low Impact Strength Training Circuit (L.I.S.T. Circuit) program for healthy individuals, we’ll use the following:
Lower Body: Goblet Squats, Romanian Deadlifts, Stability Ball Leg Curls
Upper Body: Dumbbell Bench Press, Single Arm Rows, Kettlebell Shoulder Press
Core: Plank, Hip Bridge, Farmer’s Carry (do 30 seconds of each, instead of reps)
Now, let’s go through and do 12 repetitions of the first exercise in each category—in this case—Goblet Squat x 12, Dumbbell Bench x 12, and hold a Plank for 30 seconds.
Repeat this same process two more times, for a total of 3 sets of 12 reps.
Next, go through and perform the second exercise in each category in the same manor as you did the first one.
Thirdly, you guessed it, complete 3 sets of 12 reps of the third exercise in each category.
That was a good workout, huh?! We’re trying to be efficient with our time by keeping the intensity high, while limiting impact to as little as possible.
You could easily design an entire routine by using the online library of the American Council on Exercise, but having a professional’s guidance is extremely beneficial—and even necessary—for avoiding weight lifting mistakes and injuries.
Choose any form(s) of resistance. Bands, medicine balls, bodyweight suspension trainers, or free weights, such as dumbbells, all work equally.
Another advantage to having a strength coach/trainer is to ensure you’re using enough weight. Stick around 8 to 12 repetitions of each move. If you can’t do eight reps, you’re using too much resistance. When you’re able to do more than 12 reps, add 5% more weight!
Good Luck and Happy Strengthening!
Co-Founder of Westside Strength & Conditioning