Throughout our lifetimes, the body is constantly experiencing some form of change. The human body is an incredibly dynamic system that undergoes constant adaptation.
During the later stages of the aging process, many of these changes require certain adjustments in daily life in order to maintain overall health. One of the most significant of these changes is the rate at which the body utilizes the calories we consume from food. This is a process known as metabolism.
During our later years, the process of metabolism experiences a decreased ability to burn excess calories. Without the proper lifestyle adaptations, this decrease can lead to chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Given that maintaining function and vitality is essential to maximizing quality of life throughout aging process, avoiding these types of debilitating conditions is extremely important.
In this article, we will be discussing the role that diet and exercise play in avoiding excess weight gain later in life. Although these same two principles are responsible for managing body weight at any age, they become increasingly important in the elderly population.
Getting enough exercise and physical activity provides an enormous list of benefits to the aging individual. The body is a prime example of the term, “use it or lose it,” as older people have a tendency to become more sedentary with each passing year.
As it relates to burning calories, getting enough exercise is an effective way to avoid storing unused calories in the form of body fat. Fortunately, exercise can take many forms that are suitable for people in every stage of life.
More traditional forms of physical activity, such as resistance training and running can certainly still be utilized later on in life. However, lower intensity activities such as walking, hiking and water aerobics are widely enjoyed by older individuals and still allow the body to burn more calories.
For the aging population, getting enough exercise if far more important than the specific activity used to do so. Our bodies, even later in life, are designed to move. In order to remain physically active and functional, it is critical to do just that; stay physically active.
Dietary habits are by far the biggest determining factor in caloric management and body weight. The equation behind diet and exercise is simple; eating more calories than the body consumes leads to weight gain and vice versa. However, as we previously discussed, the body requires less calories to maintain function throughout the aging process. Therefore, an individual eating the same number of calories at 70 years old that they did twenty years prior is far more prone to excess weight gain.
In order to maintain a healthy body weight throughout the aging process, it is important to be mindful of the decreased need for calories. While this applies to everyone, it is important to understand that there is no specific decrease in calories that works for every older individual as various factors such as current body weight, activity level and metabolic rate vary from person to person.
Although consuming fewer calories later in life is necessary, this should not result in an inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals. The aging individual should still maintain a well-balanced diet to ensure the body can continue functioning optimally.
To find a balance between decreasing calories while also consuming necessary nutrients, it is important to avoid high calorie, processed foods that are typically high in calories and relatively devoid of beneficial ingredients.