Today we will talk about weight loss for the elderly. While losing weight is generally very good for your health, this not always the case for seniors. Read on to find out why!
The plague of the modern day, obesity. Most of us have too much weight as a result of eating too much and having an inactive lifestyle.
It’s very easy to gradually pack on the pounds in the modern world where physical work is rare and high calorie foods are abundant.
Unfortunately growing older only makes this problem worse. Our metabolism slows down, we become less active and some crucial hormones for fat metabolism start to decline.
There are genetic differences in our tendency to store fat and in our appetites. If you are someone who has had few extra pounds of fat all their life, weight gain in old age probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you.
On the other hand if you’ve been blessed with good genes and fast metabolism you probably felt that you could eat anything you wanted without gaining a pound when younger. It might come as a surprise when you start packing on pounds as a senior.
No matter how your weight was younger, the solution for losing weight is the same. Eating less than you burn. But is losing weight beneficial or even healthy for the elderly? Let’s look at the facts!
Is weight loss healthy for the elderly
First off we have to recognize the fact that the elderly can reference to a quite wide demographic. Generally speaking you can be categorized as senior or elderly after reaching 60.
Now if we take a healthy, active and strong male that isn’t retired and still does physical work and has just turned 60 and compare this with an 80-year-old woman with disabilities that prevent active lifestyle there are certainly differences in their ability and need to lose weight.
The other very important thing to recognize is that its fat mass that matters for health. Your overall weight is determined by your frame, muscle mass and fat mass. A person with a large frame and a lot of muscle mass will have less fat mass at the same weight than a more petite person of same height.
Healthy weight is usually determined with the Body Mass Index or BMI. Your optimal bodyweight is consider to be around 20 to 25 BMI. Anything above that is overweight.
Let’s say both of our examples are sligthly overweight or moderately obese (BMI 25 to 30). The 60-year-old man would probably benefit greatly from losing enough fat to be normal weight or only slightly overweight. But losing weight might actually be detrimental for the 80-year-old woman. Why?
Because muscle mass predict longevity for older adults as This study concluded:
“This study demonstrates the survival predication ability of relative muscle mass and highlights the need to look beyond total body mass in assessing the health of older adults.”
In layman terms this means that overall weight is not merely as important as amount of muscle mass and fat mass. High amount of body fat is linked with type 2 diabetes and heart disease and is associated increased mortality in cohort studies.
Muscle mass has the opposite effect on glucose metabolism, it prevents diabetes and heart disease. That’s why in older adults all-cause mortality may be lower in the obese than in normal weight people. A few studies have also found that muscle strength correlates with longevity in older adults.
As you can see this is a complex issues that depends highly on the individual. The take away here is that active seniors that can do strength training and have significant fat mass will benefit from losing weight.
Healthy seniors who are only slightly over weight (BMI 25 to 29) or normal weight (BMI 20 to 24) will probably benefit more from doing strength training and maintaining their weight as this will maintain or increase their muscle mass.
Seniors who have significant disabilities that prevent active lifestyle or any form of strength training should probably avoid losing weight because they will lose muscle mass at an increased rate.
How age affects fat loss
As we age we will lose muscle mass and out metabolism will slow down. This will decrease our basal metabolic rate.
We tend to became less active due to fatigue, stress and aches. This reduces our metabolism even further.
There are a few key hormonal changes that affect the way we store fat and maintain muscle mass as well. Our growth hormone declines as we age which affects fat metabolism negatively. In females estrogen plummets after menopause and in men testosterone declines slowly. Both of these hormones are important for muscle mass and fat loss and overall metabolism.
All these changes combined can lead to a basal metabolic rate that is several hundred calories lower than when we were younger. We also tend to eat better as we age and things like alcohol consumption and fast food can have a significant effect on our fat gain.
So even if we eat exactly like we did when we were younger, we might actually be in a 500 calorie surplus because of our slowed metabolism. This means around 1 lbs or fat gain per week. Multiply that with several years and you start to realize why so many of us are overweight as seniors.
How to lose weight after 60
So as you can see there many things you need to consider when thinking about losing weight in older age. If you are determined to lose weight there are few important key things to do to maximize fat loss and minimize muscle loss.
When your weight reduces you will virtually always lose some muscle mass along with fat as a senior. The only exception are young adults who start doing strength training. They can as beginners increase muscle mass while simultaneously losing fat mass.
Everyone else will maintain or lose muscle mass even if they How much muscle you will lose is highly dependent on your diet and activity.
Let’s look at these factors.
Calories in calories out
The first rule for losing fat is that you need to consume fewer calories than you burn. You can theoretically burn of some fat if you consume
The higher your caloric deficit is the faster you will lose weight and fat. But you also increase the risk of losing muscle mass with higher deficit.
That’s why for the elderly it’s wise to have a very slight deficit to avoid any loss of muscle mass.
The other factor in your diet that affects how much muscle mas you lose is protein. If you don’t get enough protein your body starts break down your muscles for energy and resources when you are in a caloric deficit.
There is no need to over think being in caloric deficit and eating enough protein. With these simple tips you will almost automatically have enough protein in your diet and end up in a caloric deficit when combined with active lifestyle:
- Eat at least three meals a day. Four small ones is optimal for most seniors. A breakfast, lunch, dinner and evening snack will keep your hunger away, blood sugar even and protein intake steady.
- Include protein and vegetables on every meal, they should be the center of your meal. Amount of fats and carbs will control your overall energy intake
- Weight your self weekly and adjust your carb and fat intake according to your weight. Aim for around 1 lbs loss of weight in week. Don’t worry about week to week fluctuations, follow the trend over several months.
- Don’t leave fat out. You need healthy fats for overall health.
- Eating treats doesn’t have to be stopped but you need to reduce it to once a week since things like chocolate, candy and cakes are very high in calories. You can out train a bad diet is what they say.
Why strength training is vital for fat loss
Along with diet being active and doing strength or resistance training is paramount for maintaining muscle mass while losing weight.
When you are losing weight it’s important to train your whole body with strength training at least twice a week. Doing three workouts with different muscle group focuses is optimal for most seniors.
Strength training is pretty much the only way besides anabolic steroids to increase and maintain muscle mass in seniors. When you are in a caloric deficit, this becomes even more true.
The great thing about strength training is that it also burns a lot of calories, so you will actually increase your overall energy consumption while maintaining muscle mass. It also improves circulation and encourages metabolic and hormonal changes that increase fat loss. A true win-win situation for fat loss.
Active lifestyle and low impact cardio
Besides maintaining a slight caloric deficit, eating enough protein and doing strength training it’s important to lead an active lifestyle that includes lots of low impact cardio like walking and cycling.
Avoid using the car and walk when possible, always choose the stairs, do your own cleaning, do leisure activities you enjoy, carry the groceries etc. All these small things will combine to significant amounts of burned calories.
Exercise alone is never enough for fat loss, it’s always a whole lifestyle change and being active in day to day life can increase your metabolism several hundred calorie per day.
Even moderate intensity exercise like jogging will burn around 300 to 500 calories in an hour. When you consider that is a single muffin you realize that diet is the most important part.
If you haven’t been very active it can seem like chore at first but include one thing at a time and be determined to stick with it for at least two weeks. In that time it will become a habit and you will adapt.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these weight loss tips for the elderly. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. We promise to answer as soon as possible!
Losing weight can be beneficial for seniors but that isn’t always the case. The most important thing is to be and feel healthy enough to live an active and enjoyable life as we grow older.
There is no better for of exercise for meeting these goals than strength training. If you wan to learn more about strength training for seniors please bookmark our website and subscribe to our newsletter.
We wish you luck with your fat loss efforts if you decide to try it, just follow our tips and you will succeed!
Thank you for reading and see you next time.