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Maintaining a Healthy Weight as You Age

Mar 25 2021
5 min read
Close-up of man and women tying their shoes on a bench.

No one likes to hear it, but it can get tougher to stay at a healthy weight as you get older.

You might start to notice that the numbers on the scale are inching up with every birthday, but you might not be able to put your finger on why. It’s frustrating, and it’s all too common.

Instead of reflecting on what hasn’t changed, like your eating habits or activity level, it’s important to think about what has changed—your metabolism, body composition, and the emotional ups and downs specific to your life stage.

While there’s no magic solution to freeze time, working to achieve and maintain a healthy weight can help you feel as young as possible. It can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more; help improve symptoms of arthritis, muscle pain, and depression — even boost your sex life. Seize the day, and the opportunity, to live your most vital year, every year.

Rev Up Your Metabolism

Metabolism is the internal process that converts the calories you consume into the energy you use to not only lift a suitcase or run up the stairs, but to carry out essential functions like breathing and circulating blood. Muscle plays a big role in keeping things humming along — the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (not just when you’re breaking a sweat, but when you’re at rest, too).

Unfortunately, we all naturally lose muscle mass with age. While that can make it more difficult when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, adding weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to your routine can help minimize muscle loss and, therefore, the effect it can have on your calorie burn. An added bonus? These activities can also improve bone density. High-impact activities (hiking, dancing, tennis, stair climbing) and low-impact exercises (walking, using the elliptical machine) all count, as does lifting weights, practicing push-ups, or using resistance bands. Try your favorite for at least 30 minutes every other day.

Be Mindful of Portion Sizes

It’s wise to manage portion sizes at any age, but it’s especially important to practice moderation as you age. First, read food labels to get a good sense of how many calories you are consuming and where they are coming from. Then, you can work on cutting back if you need to curb your consumption. Some tips: count out your crackers rather than eating them out of the box; once you’ve made your plate, put away extra food before you sit down to eat; and use a smaller bowl for your occasional Rocky Road indulgence.

Raise Your Heart Rate

Even if you eat less, you still need to engage in exercise that will help you torch the calories your body used to burn more easily. Nothing does that better than heart-pumping aerobic activity. According to the National Weight Control Registry, it’s one of the most important habits of people who achieve a healthy weight and maintain it long term. In addition, experts believe that aerobic exercise may alter levels of the hormones that control hunger, helping you feel satisfied on fewer calories. Aim for two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or an hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. Running, cycling, and swimming are perfect choices.

Make the Connection Between Food and Mood

An empty nest, adjusting to retirement, and the loss of a loved one are all common life changes that can have a profound effect on your mood. For those dealing with uncertainty, loneliness, sadness, or even depression, food can be a coping mechanism. Stress, a common concern as we juggle work, home, and family, can also cause you to lean more heavily on food for comfort. Mindless eating can make it more challenging to avoid weight gain as well, particularly if you’re opting for “comfort foods,” such as sweets and high-calorie meals. If this sounds all too familiar, make it a point to find solutions to help you better manage your feelings — stress management techniques, consulting with a therapist, or whatever is appropriate for you