Obesity is a major epidemic in the United States as it is in other countries around the world.
In fact, 1/3 of US adults and 18% of kids and adolescents are obese and at risk for serious health complications, such as Type 2 diabetes, joint problems, heart disease and can lead to premature death.
In addition to the serious health consequences, obesity has a substantial economic impact that affects the country as a whole. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related conditions were $190.2 billion in 2010, this equates to almost 21% of all annual medical spending in the United States, and the numbers only continue to rise year after year.
Like anyone else, the senior and aging population needs to address healthy weight management and to be aware how weight gain can cause problems for their health. But, seniors can be even more vulnerable because as we age our metabolism slows and weight gain becomes that much more of an issue.
Loss Of Lean Muscle Mass
Have you ever watched a teenager inhale food like breaths of air and not gain an ounce? A lot of this is due to a higher metabolic rate in our younger years.
Did you know that as we age, our metabolism begins to slow down?
While genetics help to determine our overall metabolic performance, having sufficient amounts of lean muscle mass greatly determines metabolism as well because muscle burns more calories per hour than fat, and this means that those who have lean and muscular bodies are able to burn more, even when they are at rest.
Our overall muscle mass decreases as we age, and this slows metabolism by about 2% to 8% per decade. This can be counteracted by performing simple strength training exercises with the use of free weights or weight machines.
Ideally, strength training should take place early in life, but especially as we head into our 40’s and 50’s because when you maintain lean muscle mass, metabolism is not likely to decrease as much as you age.
Seniors, especially, are more likely to gain weight as their metabolism slows down, which, can lead to obesity and the serious health concerns related to it.
Lack of activity is the number one cause of weight gain even when we continue to eat as we have our whole lives because of the decrease in metabolism. As our metabolism decreases so does our bodies ability to burn calories. If we keep eating the same amount of food our bodies will start to turn the excess calories into fat. The more overweight we get the less active we become. This, in turn, leads to more weight gain.
Weight Management For Seniors
The solution to reversing and preventing obesity is a combination of diet and exercise. A good diet will cut the number calories that you are taking in, while exercise will burn off calories that you eat. Each one will get rid of some of the excess calories. Together they will get rid of a significant amount of calories.
Finding a balance between diet and exercise is the best way to get rid of unwanted weight.
The basic formula is “calories in and calories out” or burn more than you take in.
To lose weight we also need to change how we eat. As we get older, our bodies start to secrete less digestive enzymes. This changes how our bodies break down and absorb nutrients.
• Avoid foods that are high in sugar and fat. Fat contains more calories and can lead to high LDL (bad) cholesterol.
• Eat small portions of food more often. The body really only needs about 300-400 calories in one sitting. Any more than that is turned into fat stores. Eating smaller portions will help with weight loss.
• Eat more plant-based foods, like fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals that the body needs, which, makes them quality calorie foods.
• Eat more fiber. Fiber is filling and low in calories. Fiber also aids in digestion. Kale is a super plant food filled with fiber and other essential nutrients. It is very filling and can be eaten raw or lightly sautéed. There are many great plant foods that are filled with fiber, including, broccoli that can be a great weapon in the weight loss arsenal.
• Drink more water. Many times thirst feels like hunger, and instead of drinking we eat.
Also, drinking icy cold water helps to burn a little more calories as the body needs to warm it as it passes through.
Exercise can help you to lose weight by increasing your muscle mass and speeding up your metabolism.
There are many other practical benefits to being active aside from weight loss and building lean muscle mass. Some of these include increased stamina, endurance, balance, vitality and agility, all of which are helpful in the senior years.
The best exercises for weight loss are aerobic workouts and resistance training.
An aerobic workout exercises the heart and the cardiovascular system. When our heart beats faster the body burns more calories. The longer you keep your heart rate up the more calories you will burn.
An aerobic workout strengthens the heart and increases blood flow to the entire body. This provides the body with a rush of nutrients and energy that causes the body to burn while working out and also while at rest.
It is recommended that you do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day, at least 3 days per week, preferably 5 days.
Aerobic activity includes biking, jogging, walking, elliptical trainers, and various fitness classes, just to name a few.
Resistance training targets the muscles directly. It is used to increase muscle mass and has a longer effect on burning calories than aerobics. By increasing muscle mass we are also increasing our metabolism. This means that our bodies are burning more calories all the time, and not just during a particular workout.
It is recommended that resistance training should consist of 8 to 10 different exercises. Each exercise should consist of 8 to 12 repetitions. Work until the muscles are fatigued, but don’t strain yourself.
These are simple tips that anyone can follow for healthy weight management and an incredible overall health boost at any age, but especially in senior years when the effects of time on our bodies can cause serious health issues.