Key Strategies to Lose Weight as an Older Adult

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Managing a healthy weight can be challenging for older adults. As you age, your body’s metabolism slows, and you lose muscle tone due to reduced activity. While some fluctuation in weight is normal, gaining too much can cause problems for seniors. Obesity makes common conditions like abnormal blood pressure, poor circulation, and cardiovascular health that much more concerning for aging adults. Additionally, older adults with obesity have a higher risk of falling and may experience worse fall outcomes.      

A lot of people gained undesired weight over the course of the pandemic, causing many to assess their diet and exercise routines. Losing weight is easier said than done for everyone, but aging adults have an especially hard time with the process. Older adults who have given exercise their best efforts may experience the frustration of not seeing results. Unfortunately, certain biological factors dictate the success of diet and exercise for people past a certain age, but there are effective strategies to help older adults get their weight into a healthier range.        

Health for older adults is more than a number on a scale. Seniors should not focus too much on exercising without also considering other areas of well-being. Getting active is only effective if you also eat healthily, get adequate sleep, and strengthen your mental health. Seniors should not live in fear of becoming unhealthy or experiencing accidental falls, but they can actively take steps to decrease the chances of adverse medical conditions.           

A balanced and active lifestyle may help older adults feel stronger and better able to navigate their surroundings, but unfortunately, no amount of exercise can completely eliminate the chance of a fall. As you explore lifestyle and exercise strategies to manage your weight, consider a medical alert system that travels with you out on a walk, to the gym, or in and around your house.  

The Pandemic and Its Effects on Weight Gain for Older Adults

According to an American Psychological Association survey, 61% of the respondents experienced some type of undesired weight change during the pandemic. Around 42% reported weight gain and 18% experienced weight loss. Older adults accounted for roughly 25% of respondents who reported an undesired weight change. These survey results speak to the commonality of weight gain among Americans during this stressful time. While the survey focused on the effects of stress on weight gain, stress is just one factor for the phenomenon. The pandemic caused many people to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle and, perhaps, a less restricted diet to help manage stress. 

Older adults need to take their weight seriously to avoid adverse health outcomes. Seniors may be more prone to obesity-related conditions, which can be devastating for their long-term health. As a result, people who have gained weight over the past year might be looking to shed some extra pounds and get back into a routine that includes more activity. For older adults, this will take more effort and time to see a change. Any new exercise program should be low impact, gradually undertaken, and approved by one’s physician before starting.

Be aware that, if you gained or lost more than a few pounds, your balance and mobility may be affected. As you slowly add more activity into your routine, consider a medical alert device. Alert1 devices offer fall detection technology in case an accidental fall catches you off guard.  

How Weight Contributes to Fall Likelihood and Fall Outcomes

Falls occur for many reasons, but weight may be an important factor. Researchers have looked into this relationship to determine what kind of risk exists for older adults with an obese BMI (body mass index). The study utilized survey results from a sample of individuals older than 65 who answered questions about their lifestyle, weight, and fall occurrences. The researchers found that older adults with obesity had an increased chance of having a fall. Additionally, of the obese participants who had a fall, 57% felt that there was nothing they could have done to prevent the fall from happening.1 

The study also investigated the link between obesity and fall outcomes. Obesity was not a significant predictor of the risk of fall-related injuries. However, the obese participants experienced more pain and discomfort compared to respondents who had a lower BMI. These participants were also less likely to have done more than 2 hours of physical activity during a week. 

This study did not provide a direct causation for why obesity contributes to falls. However, the researchers did give some potential explanations. Mainly, obese individuals are likely on more medications that impact their stability. They also have lower confidence in avoiding falls. The research implies that older adults should aim for an active lifestyle to achieve a healthy BMI and reduce the risk of falling.    

Alert1 medical alert systems are great for older adults moving away from a sedentary lifestyle and towards one filled with healthy exercise and movement. Personal button alarms can play a key role as you or your loved one works on gaining more confidence in avoiding falls. A device gives you assurance that you have immediate access to help whenever you need it.  

Why It’s Hard to Lose Weight as an Older Adult

Past a certain age, maintaining your weight becomes very difficult – often for reasons that are out of your control. You may find that, even if you eat the same things you’ve always eaten and keep up a daily exercise routine, weight gain still occurs. Here are four main reasons why it’s tough for older adults to lose weight and keep it off. 

1.       Muscle Loss: As adults age, they can lose muscle, a condition called sarcopenia.[i] In fact, adults can lose 3% to 5% of their muscle per decade after the age of 30. If you lose muscle but do not reduce your calorie intake, your body will begin to gain weight. Lean muscle burns more calories than fat, so older adults who do not consistently build muscle or keep the same diet with no activity change may gain undesired weight. 

2.       Slower Metabolism: Your metabolism slows as you age. This means that your body’s rate of converting calories to energy does not function as quickly or efficiently as it used to. The combination of less muscle and slower calorie burn results in an excess of calories that your body stores as fat. For aging adults, the right diet and exercise can prevent fat build-up and help compensate for the body’s slower metabolism. Any changes should be undertaken after approval from one’s medical team.

3.       Lifestyle Changes: Older adults may be less active or have increased stress as they age. These changes impact your body’s weight. You may not have time to incorporate a healthy amount of exercise or find yourself eating more throughout the day. Adjusting your lifestyle may help you manage your weight more effectively. 

4.       Hormones: Hormones change how your body stores fat. Both men and women experience age-related hormone changes that make the body store fat in the stomach area, making weight gain less evenly distributed around the body and more noticeable. Additionally, as hormone levels decrease, your body cannot burn as many calories as it did before. 

Healthy Weight Loss Strategies for Aging Adults

While it may seem like biology is stacked against you when it comes to weight loss, there are effective strategies for weight management that older adults can try. We will review five strategies and explain how they can give you more control over your weight.2 Again, it must be stated that any change to your diet and exercise routine should be discussed with and approved by a medical professional.

  • Strength Training: The goal of strength training is to build muscle and improve your metabolism. Aging adults lose muscle as they age, making it easier to put on undesired weight in the form of fat. Adding resistance exercise two days a week to your other exercises will help build back the muscle mass you are losing. Older adults should be careful to use an appropriate amount of weight. 

  • Increase Protein Intake: An increase of protein in an older adult’s diet gives the body the right fuel to build muscle and boost the metabolism. Seniors should aim to make protein 30% to 40% of their diet.2 The best way to incorporate more protein is to make the nutrient a feature of each meal. More protein is a good diet adjustment to help you lose weight and keep it off. 

  • Get Enough Sleep: A consistent sleep schedule that gives older adults plenty of rest contributes greatly to healthy weight loss. Proper sleep keeps hunger cravings at bay and lets your body recover, especially if you increase your activity. Seniors should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. 

  • Intermittent Fasting: Eating less in a day a few times a month can help with weight loss. Taking a break from eating a normal amount of food allows your body to better signal hunger. Older adults should ease into this type of fasting to acclimate the body. This type of diet may not be suitable for everyone, so be sure to consult with a doctor to see if it can work for you. 

  • Mindful Eating: Mindful eating means that you have specific eating times when you consciously enjoy your meal or snack. The opposite to this is grazing on food throughout the day, or eating straight from a bag instead of portioning out what you want to eat. Mindful eating helps you understand when you are actually hungry and assists with portion control, which can promote weight loss.  
Keep in mind that these strategies work best in combination with each other. Only doing weight training, or only eating more protein, may not provide the results you want. Instead, aim to incorporate several of these strategies for a more effective weight loss plan.  

Health Is More Than the Number on the Scale

It is important to note that weight should not be the sole focus of a healthy lifestyle for aging adults. Senior health is very complex and reliant on more than diet and exercise. Seniors should aim to approach their health holistically and with guidance from their doctors and care providers. This way, older adults can improve their mobility, cognitive ability, social health, and overall wellness. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, maintaining a healthy weight and sticking to an exercise routine can help prevent falls. 

A Medical Alert Device Can Help Your Weight Loss Journey

We’ve talked about the challenges of weight loss for older adults, as well as the ways to manage your weight. Certain diet, exercise, and lifestyle strategies can help combat the biological components of weight gain. Seniors should consult their doctors before starting any weight loss regimine to make sure it is safe. 

Seniors may also want to consider a medical alert device to keep them safe in the event of an emergency. Alert1 button alarms have unique features that make our service best for those aging in place. For example, our members are not locked into lengthy contracts, and instead can pay month-to-month. Best of all, our Command Center operators are trained and certified, meaning they will be able to give accurate instructions and stay on the line with you until help arrives. 

Seniors should be careful when introducing new activities and dieting techniques into their schedules to prevent overwhelming the body. Investing in an Alert1 device is a good move to keep you within reach of help in case of an emergency. Exercising can help reduce the chance that you might fall, but the risk remains. We hope our members find improved confidence in their ability to navigate their surroundings. But we also want you or your loved one to be prepared in case of an accidental fall or other emergency. Consider a medical alert device as you work on managing your weight safely.

 

 

 

 

[1] Thorpe, Matthew. (2017, May 25). How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging). Healthline.com. How to Fight Sarcopenia (Muscle Loss Due to Aging).

2 Hayes, Kim. (2018, Feb. 12). How Much Protein Do You Need After 50? AARP.org. How Much Protein Do You Need After 50?