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  • Writer's pictureNatasha Gradov

Defy the Scale: Staying Fit and Fabulous as You Age

Aging Doesn't Mean Inevitable Weight Gain: Here's How to Stay Fit

Getting older often comes with the pesky problem of weight gain, even if you’re eating the same and exercising as usual. But here’s some good news: while aging is inevitable, packing on extra pounds doesn’t have to be.

Why We Gain Weight as We Age

In the U.S., obesity affects about 40% of adults, bringing along a higher risk of serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. One major reason we gain weight as we age is that we gradually lose muscle mass—around 1% every year. According to Donald D. Hensrud from the Mayo Clinic, this muscle loss leads to a lower basal metabolic rate, which means we burn fewer calories when at rest.

Activity Levels Drop

Another factor is that we tend to move less as we get older. Think about it: the average 80-year-old isn’t as active as a 20-year-old. This decrease in daily movement, separate from structured exercise, contributes to weight gain.

Bethesda dietitian Jessica Murgueytio suggests that the key to combating this is staying active. She recommends weight training two to three days a week to slow muscle loss and adding a couple of days of cardio. And don’t forget those 10,000 steps a day! Keeping active throughout the day, whether it’s walking, housework, or gardening, can boost your metabolic rate.

Hormonal Changes

Hormones also play a role in weight gain. Both men and women experience hormonal changes that can affect weight, but it’s a myth that postmenopausal women gain more weight than men. Both genders gain weight, usually about a pound a year, especially during the holiday season.

Interestingly, women often notice weight shifting to their abdomen more quickly than men, which can make it seem like they’re gaining more weight. Men experience the same shift, but more gradually.

Body’s Fat Processing Slows Down

Research shows that as we age, our bodies become less efficient at removing fat from fat cells. This decrease in lipid turnover means fat accumulates more easily, contributing to weight gain.

How to Fight Weight Gain

Here are some tips to stay fit as you age:

  • Exercise Regularly: All physical activity helps burn calories. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is especially effective for shedding abdominal fat.

  • Lift Weights: Resistance training helps maintain muscle mass and keeps your metabolism up.

  • Stay Active Throughout the Day: Avoid sitting for long periods. Small movements add up.

  • Watch Your Calories: If you’re moving less, you need to eat less. Focus on portion control and choose foods that are low in calories but high in volume, like fruits and vegetables.

A Silver Lining

The good news is that weight gain tends to level off after your mid-60s. This is partly because older adults often eat less. Even though physical activity might continue to decline, a reduced calorie intake helps balance things out. In fact, obesity rates are slightly lower in those over 60 compared to those aged 40-59.

So, by staying active, lifting weights, and watching what you eat, you can manage your weight effectively, even as you get older. Aging doesn’t have to mean gaining weight!

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