Body & Fitness

Why it’s harder to lose weight as we age

It’s tougher to shed weight as we grow older but here are some tips to help beat the bulge.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that the older you get, the harder it becomes to lose weight. This is due to a combination of factors. For women, going through the menopause can play a part in weight gain, with the change in hormone levels affecting your metabolism.

Ageing can naturally slow you down so that you are moving less and burning fewer calories, and conditions such as arthritis can make it harder to exercise at the same levels as you’ve done in the past.

Plus, after the age of 60, your body’s oxygen intake can drop by as much as a third of what it was when you were in your twenties, making you more out of breath when you exercise. For some people, this is very off-putting. But don’t give up – it is possible to lose weight and keep it off when you’re over 50.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • You may need to change your habits. If you’ve always had sugary cereals for breakfast, try something that is still sweet, such as porridge with berries, bananas, cinnamon and honey, but a lot better for you. If you can’t have your afternoon cuppa without several biscuits, change your routine so that you go for a quick walk and have water with a piece of fruit. It takes roughly three weeks to establish new habits.
  • Worry less about what the scales say and more about things like your waist measurement and total amount of body fat. The scales may say you weigh less, but that could be because you’ve lost muscle. Measure fat loss with a body fat tool, such as calipers, or measure your waist size. It should be no more than half your height. For example, if you are 1.6m tall, your waist should be no more than 80cm.

  • Lifting weights is a good idea. Strength training helps to build muscle mass, which naturally decreases with age. More muscle mass helps you to lose weight because muscles burn calories.

  • Drink plenty of water. Everyone should be doing this anyway if they want to lose weight but it is particularly important for older people because as we age, the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that controls hunger and thirst) becomes desensitised and we don’t always get the signal that we need to drink. So we eat instead.

  • Stretch every day. The more flexible you are, the less likely your muscles are to seize, making it easier for you to do physical activity, which can help you to keep your weight under control.

  • Change your attitude. If you think weight gain is inevitable as you age, you’re fighting a losing battle. Instead, tell yourself you’ll need to make a few small changes to keep your weight under control, but it will be worth it.

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