Woman & Home health and fitness coach – and author of The 21 Day BLAST plan! – Annie Deadman often gets asked: ‘Is there a point in your life when you just need to throw in the sweat towel, accept that your body is changing and there’s nothing you can do about it?’ While Annie is all about enjoying the ride, she notes that getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up all the control over your body. Nope there are ways to losing weight as you age! Despite a little more joint pain than usual.
There are some shards of truth to the widely believed idea that it gets harder and harder to stay in shape as we get older. Your body definitely changes as you age – there’s no getting around that! But if you focus on a consistent exercising routine and eating well, the effects of ageing can be mitigated, if not reduced.
Unfortunately our hormones do make losing weight in our later years a trickier task. Our hormone balance shifts in ways that could encourage weight gain. For example, testosterone and DHEA levels decline in men, and in women, the insulin regulating hormones become less effective. These changes can decrease muscle mass, slow down metabolism (about 2% per decade after age 30), and sap your energy levels.
But all is not lost! It just means that you’ll need to be more dedicated to eating clean and moving your body. This will help keep your hormones balanced, as well as your metabolism firing.
As we get older, something happens inside the muscles. Sarcopenia is a loss of muscle mass, and the number-one reason for, you guessed it, visible ageing. It is seen as inevitable, and the reasons for it happening are linked to:
- a reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to muscles;
- lower concentrations of some hormones (including testosterone);
- a decreased in the ability to turn protein into energy.
While it may be something we can’t avoid, its severity is dictated by diet and exercise. As above, losing weight in your older age is possible if you’re dedicated to eating clean and moving your body.
Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3 – 5% of their muscle mass each decade after 30. Weight and resistance training is the proven weapon to combat this. Outside of the gym, what you put on your plate can help too: namely, protein. One study found that men and women between 70 and 79 who ate the most protein lost 40% less lean mass than those who ate the least protein!
How does that work? ‘Muscle burns more calories, increases your insulin sensitivity, and keeps your testosterone production higher,’ says Annie. All of this can help you stave off age-related health conditions.
A hot tip for your diet is to up your protein intake versus carbohydrates and fats. Increasing your protein intake from 15% of your total calories to 30% of your total calories can help you boost the calories your body burns during digestion. Which may just help speed up losing weight – even as you age. This helps to prevent lean muscle protein breakdown that:
- decreases muscle-mass percentage;
- increases fat percentage;
- slows the metabolic rate.
You can keep your workouts intense, if not more intense than usual when you’re working toward losing weight. People think that as they get older, they need to exercise more gently to avoid injury. Yes, you do become prone to inflammation and potential injuries as you age, and you should be careful. However there are basic precautions you can take to avoid this and maintain your usual exercise regimen safely.
Some examples are taking the time to warm up before a workout (even walking!) and cooling down properly afterwards. Stretching on rest days and taking supplements for your joints come recommended too. Your body needs exercise like it needs oxygen and water. Don’t let exercise slide just because you are growing older – even if you’re not looking to lose weight! Exercise is important to maintain your body, as we’ve learned.
Moving your body is crucial to maintain muscle mass: 500g of muscle burns three times more calories than 500g of fat. Challenge yourself and up the workouts if your medical professional gives you the go ahead. This doesn’t have to be anything crazy either! Adding 20 minutes of resistance training or increasing the incline on the treadmill will work wonders for losing weight and keeping your health in tip-top shape!