It’s never too late to lose weight. Shedding fat has wide-reaching health benefits, which can lower spending on healthcare and increase overall quality of life. But with aging comes a number of things that make getting fit harder, such as hard-to-manage conditions, weakening bones and muscles, and less flexibility. For seniors, losing weight may seem impossible at times, but all you need is a place to start.
Why Lose Weight?
Obesity has become one of the most worrying and pervasive public health issues in the United States. It affects more than one-third of the adult population, and 69 percent are affected by excess weight. Obesity increases risk for a number of other chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and several cancers.
For seniors, minimizing risk of developing health conditions can help save on health care costs and help you live a long and active life. Adults in the US spend a total of $190 billion a year on obesity-related health issues. But as we age, muscles and bones tend to lose their strength, and it becomes harder and harder to get fit. What can you do?
To start, the most successful weight loss plans are those that take everything into consideration. Committing to a new diet or trying a new exercise routine alone may help with short-term weight loss goals, but healthy, sustainable weight loss is the result of a collaboration between you and care providers such as doctors, trainers, and even therapists. What works well for one person may not work for another, and could even be harmful depending on health conditions, physical ability, and nutritional needs, so always talk to someone who can make recommendations based on your individual needs.
Meals and Nutrition
- Make a meal plan. Taking on a whole new diet plan isn’t necessary as long as you’re mindful about what you’re eating. Planning out your meals can help you check whether you’re getting all the nutrients you need, as well as take stock of where your calories are coming from. Make a list before going to the grocery store so you’re not tempted to stray outside your plan.
- Skip the soda. If you’re used to drinking soda, fruit juices, or other sugary drinks, take the time to make the switch to water. One 12 ounce soda or fruit juice can be 150 calories, and a smoothie or sugary coffee can be as much as 500 calories. Even drinks not typically thought of as sugary, such as wine and other alcoholic beverages, add a lot of calories to your diet without contributing to daily nutrients.
- Opt for fiber- and nutrient-rich foods. Fiber helps you feel full faster, and fiber-rich foods such as fresh fruit and raw vegetables also help you get necessary vitamins and minerals. Legumes, oily fish like salmon, and nuts are heart-healthy options that are packed with protein. Most importantly, skip overly-processed foods that leave you feeling hungry and wanting more.
Exercises for Seniors
- Walk as much as you can. As much as your health allows, incorporate walking into your daily routine. Whether that means lacing up your sneakers for an early-morning trail hike, taking your dog around the block, or parking further away from the door in a parking lot, do what you can to stay moving.
- Do weight training. Halt or slow the progression of weakening muscles by lifting weights. Start by doing exercises without weights, such as lunges or arm workouts, then gradually add resistance with weights, resistance bands, or machines. Remember to start slow and add repetitions only when you feel comfortable.
- Always warm up. When you’re excited about starting a new workout routine, it’s tempting to jump right in with a jog or strength training, but you could be setting yourself up for failure. Always take time to stretch and warm up with light activity to prevent muscle strain and injury.
- Have fun. Okay, we know this might make you roll your eyes, but just like other aspects of your weight loss plan, getting regular exercise has to be a lifestyle change, not an activity with an end date. The best way to incorporate exercise into your daily life is to enjoy it. What does that mean? Don’t force yourself to go for a run if you hate running and you know you’ll give up in a month. Instead, choose another cardio activity such as swimming.
Taking steps to lose weight can have wide-reaching health benefits. The most important thing to remember is that weight loss plans are lifestyle changes, not short-term goals. Make changes that are sustainable and healthy, work with healthcare providers and training professionals, and you’ll begin to see results in how you feel.