How Seniors Can Maintain a Healthy Weight

All over America, senior populations continue to grow as older adults are living longer due to advances in medicine. A higher number of seniors are experiencing many of the problems that plague younger generations, including weight gain. Although obesity levels are much lower in seniors, there is a circular relationship between longevity and a healthy weight. As people live longer, their caloric needs change which can put them at risk for overeating. And the more seniors exercise, the longer they live.

The key to balancing a healthy diet with exercise is to find programs that are enjoyable and sustainable.  Here are some tips for senior diets and exercise.

Senior dieting requires more than just calorie restriction

The general rule with dieting is that in order to lose weight, one must create a caloric deficiency. A pound of body fat roughly equates to 3,500 calories. Therefore, in order to lose a pound in a week—which is generally considered a healthy weight-loss goal—a 500-calorie-a-day deficiency is necessary. Senior metabolism is slower than that of a younger person. Whereas a 30-year-old man may require 2,500 calories per day to maintain his weight, at 70 he may only require 1,800 calories. This slower metabolism makes it easier to overeat and harder to create a weight-loss deficiency. In addition, seniors have increased nutritional requirements in order to maintain bone mass and muscle strength. Simply reducing calories can result in malnutrition or injury.

Quality calories are key

Although a balanced diet is required for optimal health at any age, seniors require a high-protein diet that is lower in overall calories. This diet is possible through scrutinizing calorie quality. Empty calories, such as those found in refined sugar, bad fats, and alcohol, do great damage to a senior’s weight management. A good diet, therefore, would include foods that provide nutrition and fiber. Some good senior foods include:

-       High-quality protein, including eggs, fish, lean meats, and beans.
-       Dark, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, and cabbage.
-       Good fats such as those found in avocados and olive oil.
-       Reduced amounts of complex carbohydrates including grains and fruits.

Balancing diet with exercise

Since it is difficult to create a calorie deficiency sufficient to lose weight with diet alone, exercise can help. Experts suggest that seniors, even those with healthy weights, get 2.5 hours a week of moderate exercise or 1.5 hours a week of high-intensity exercise. Since high-intensity workouts can cause injury and fatigue, most seniors opt for incorporating some easy exercise, such as brisk walking, to their weekly routine.

If a senior weighing 160 pounds were to walk about 20 minutes a day, they will burn around 700 calories a week. If looking to lose a pound, an easy 20-minute walk already would have shaved off 100 calories each day, making the goal more attainable.

To maximize weight loss, there are other low-impact exercises that seniors can do at home. With a small amount of equipment, such as resistance bands and a yoga mat, you can put together a home gym for less than $100. The key is to find a good spot in your home. You don’t need a lot of space, just space that is comfortable and convenient.

In addition to promoting weight loss, exercise has been shown to increase longevity, with those following the recommended exercise of 2.5 hours a week living an average of 3.4 years more than those who do not.

Senior weight loss can be tricky, due to lowered metabolism, but through exercise and smart food choices, you can get down to a healthy weight.

Photo Credit: Pexels

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