The question posed by the title of this article may be just one in a list of other age-related changes you are noticing regarding your body. During the aging process, many individuals struggle to maintain a healthy body weight despite adhering to similar diet and activity levels as in their younger years.
Like it or not, to avoid gaining unwanted weight as you age, there are inevitably some adaptations required. Although the general principles pertaining to weight management apply to people of all ages, the aging adult must be mindful of how their bodies tolerate certain caloric levels and exercise.
In this discussion, we will break down the two biggest contributing factors that cause many individuals to gain weight as they age. Being aware of the increased complications of weight management later in life and adjusting accordingly can make all the difference.
Decreased Activity Level
A common trend seen time and time again amongst older adults is a shift toward a more sedentary lifestyle. This can occur for any number of reasons, the most common being decreased confidence in the ability to maintain high level tasks, an injury, such as a fall, that reduces mobility, even pressure from family members to avoid risks can all play a role.
Although choosing ability-specific activities and being mindful of injury prevention are important, maintaining an adequate amount of physical activity is even more so.
It should come as no surprise that any time an individual performs significantly less activity than before, this person is bound to burn less calories and therefore gain extra body weight. In the weight management equation that is calories in versus calories out, changing one variable without the other can only lead to a different end result.
Furthermore, less exercise and physical activity is often responsible for a sharp decrease in muscle mass during the aging process. While a reduction in muscle tissue in a natural occurrence with aging, failing to exercise only exacerbates the issue.
Given that lean muscle tissue burns more calories, even at rest, than other tissues, losing muscle mass further decreases the body’s caloric expenditure each day. This can also result in excess weight gain.
Different Metabolic Rate
Apart from maintaining adequate exercise frequency, it is also important to realize that the aging body does not burn as many calories as it when it was younger.
The word metabolism is thrown around a lot these days, however, for the sake of this discussion, consider metabolism to simply be the rate at which the body burns calories consumed from food to support different processes.
As you age, your body does not need as many calories to perform the same functions. If you are noticing significant weight gain, this may be confusing due to the fact that you feel you are not eating more than you usually do. A decrease in metabolic function is the culprit behind this conundrum.
Managing your body’s decreased caloric requirement does not require that you drastically reduce your food intake and struggle with hunger most of the day. While the exact decrease required is different from person to person, there is usually only a slight decrease in your calorie needs with each year of aging. In the process of reducing your total calories, be careful not to eliminate essential vitamins and minerals from your diet.
The first things to go should be high-calorie foods that are relatively void of beneficial ingredients.