Written by Kevin Wells of seniordiabetic.com
As we age, you might be among older adults who have gained weight over the years, and may feel like it’s time to create change and shed those unwanted pounds. Of course this issue is compounded by “life,” such as work, raising a family, and all the other obligations we have throughout most of adulthood. It’s easy to fall into the habit of putting off exercise and eating right. However, it’s never too late to create positive and meaningful change. The trick is to make sure to do it safely because as frustrating as it is, your body’s needs are different from when you were younger. Small, incremental changes add up to bigger and more meaningful change over time if consistent with your efforts. Practice makes better and better might add more quality years to your life.
Why Lose Weight Now?
If you’re on the fence about whether it’s worth it to try losing weight later in life, it may help to know just how much better it can make you feel. Exercising and eating right gives you more energy, no matter your age, and increased strength and flexibility give you the ability to continue doing the things you enjoy longer. Regular exercise is great for your brain, too! Exercise boosts brain function in general and can help prevent memory loss. Older adults are also more likely to suffer from depression than the rest of the population, and exercise is an excellent way to fight it. Experiencing loss and isolation is more common as you get older, and this is a risk factor for depression, but exercising is a healthy way to meet new people and rebuild your support system. The link between exercise and depression is also physiological. According to CNN, people who are depressed have lower levels of two key neurotransmitters in the brain, but exercise raises these levels to fight off depression.
How Do You Lose Weight Safely?
Consult your physician before starting a new weight-loss program to be sure that you will be meeting your body’s nutritional needs. Find out about any possible medication interactions, too, especially if you use weight-loss supplements or other diet foods that are highly processed.
Two of the biggest concerns older people face are muscle and bone loss, so your diet should include plenty of lean protein, calcium, and vitamin D to help strengthen bones and build muscle. For many older adults, swapping meals high in carbs for meals high in protein and vegetables is an ideal healthy diet. Practicing portion control is another healthy way to cut back on calories without losing the nutrition you need. Be sure to drink plenty of water as part of a balanced diet and exercise plan, too. According to Prevention, it’s normal to experience thirst desensitization as we age, which means you may not feel thirsty even though you still need to stay hydrated. Water is necessary for digestion and metabolism, so find ways to remind yourself to drink plenty.
Exercise for Your Body’s Needs
When you start a new exercise routine, it’s important to stay within your limits so you don’t get injured. If you have achy joints or any old injuries, be mindful of those and choose exercises that won’t stress them. Swimming and cycling are two low-impact exercises that are easy on your joints and bones. Walking is one of the best all-around exercises you can do, and it’s easy to start at a pace and distance that works for you. Keep in mind that stretching is just as important as aerobic and strength exercises because it increases flexibility and gives you a greater range of motion.
Strength training is a key component for weight loss, too, so don’t limit your routine to cardio. In addition to helping you lose weight, resistance training is also good for your bones and muscles, so it’s a win-win. In fact, strength training as an older adult results in far greater benefits than when you were younger. The impact of strengthening muscles, ligaments, and tendons could possibly prevent falls, as well as bone fractures/breaks. Start small and then increase weight gradually as the amount you’re doing becomes too easy.
Your weight-loss results may happen a little slower than they do for those who are younger, so don’t get discouraged. Find ways to make exercising bring joy to your life, such as joining a group class at a local community center, so you get accustomed to the activity and the social involvement. Once you get into a routine of eating right and exercising, your increased energy and better health will help keep you going.