Aging is a continuous, complex, and dynamic process that begins with birth and ends with death. All of us experience the effects of aging process. Today's aging population has developed a dynamic change of attitude towards the concept of growing old. They are helping to change society's traditional views on aging.
Aging results in many physiological changes in the body. One of the significant changes of aging is gaining weight, for which our habits are responsible to a large extent. Four important causes of gain weight with aging are:
- We become more sedentary as we age.
- We begin to lose muscle mass as much as 3% to 5% each decade after age 30, depending on our level of physical activity. This is called age-related sarcopenia.
- Our metabolism slows down as we age, one of the reasons being decrease in muscle mass.
- The aging process is often associated with a significant decline in many different hormones, including growth hormone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid hormones. The age-related hormone decline causes weight gain in men and women.
Some of the factors contributing to aging process can be controlled so that weight gain can be avoided or lessened.
Lifestyle changes for preventing weight gain with aging –
Older people can adopt the following measures for getting in shape even in old age:
Watch the diet – This is one of the most neglected aspects of our life as we age. Eating healthy and nutritious diet at least most of the time can help avoid too much weight gain as one gets older. As with aging our metabolism slows down, our requirement of daily calories decreases. Mostly, older people eat more than their requirements, contributing significantly to their weight gain. So, older people should not only eat healthy and nutritious diet but also keep track of their calorie consumption.
Do cardio exercises – It is commonly seen that as one gets older, one begins to become physically less active. They spend most of their time sitting or doing things while sitting, further reducing muscle mass and bone density. Before taking up exercises, they should obtain a clearance from their doctor, if they have been physically inactive for long. They should choose an activity they might enjoy such as swimming, walking or cycling and try to do that activity at least 5 days a week. And they should gradually add time each week until they can do 30 minutes of continuous activity.
Lift weights – Many are skeptical about the usefulness of lifting weights in old age as they think that they may injure themselves. As a matter of fact, training training should be one of the most important parts of the exercise program for older people. Old people need not lift heavy weights in the beginning but they can gradually increase poundage as they develop strength. In reality, muscles grow quite well in response to strengthening exercises in older persons. Simultaneously, along building muscles and strength with strengthening exercises, they will also be working on important areas like balance, stability and flexibility. As muscles are metabolically active, they will raise one's metabolism.
Increase general physical activity – There has been a graduate decline in physical activity in people worldwide, more so in old age. The flip side of this decrease in physical activity is an increase in sedentary activities – watching television, playing video games, and using the computer. It's clear that the “energy out” side of the energy balance equation is tilting toward weight gain. So, including practicing exercise regularly, older persons should up their daily physical activity to prevent weight gain.
The bottom line –
Since weight gain is inevitably associated with aging process, older people are likely to develop an array of diseases due to overweight and obesity, which can be more disturbing for them because of their advanced age. But there is a word of encouragement that by carefully adopting specific lifestyle changes, they can prevent or reduce weight gain, thus keeping off related related diseases and maintaining their individual independence to a reasonable extent.