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Front Page » March 14, 2013 » Focus » A weighty problem:
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A weighty problem:


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Losing some weight is a goal for many people regardless of age.

While youngsters and young adults might be able to get away with a few extra pounds without suffering any significant consequences, older adults carrying some extra weight might be putting their overall health at considerable risk.

Shedding weight after the age of 50 is not always easy. As a person ages, muscle mass tends to dwindle while body fat has a tendency to increase. Since fat burns fewer calories than muscle, weight gain as a person ages is bound to happen. But that doesn't mean such weight gain is inevitable. In fact, men and women willing to make certain changes with regard to diet and exercise can shed pounds after 50 while preventing future weight gain.

The nasty word: Diet

Men and women need fewer calories as they age. For example, men and women in their 40s may need as many as 200 calories more per day than they will when they reach their 50s. Counting calories might seem difficult, so men and women in their 50s and older who don't think they can count calories can try to eat more low-calorie foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Consuming fewer calories often requires changing dietary habits, not only with regard to what you're eating but also how you're eating and even how you shop for food. Men and women used to dining out for lunch every day can start bringing their own lunches so they can gain greater control of their daily caloric intake. For those who find they're frequently too exhausted to cook each night, they can prepare meals in advance to have healthy, homemade meals waiting instead of always ordering takeout or delivery. When shopping for food, people should avoid doing so on an empty stomach so they're less inclined to buy unhealthy snacks.

It's hard to do: Exercise

Exercise is another essential component to shedding pounds after 50, though men and women over 50 should always consult a physician before they begin a new exercise regimen. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that regular exercise can help older men and women prevent the onset of a host of ailments, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, the CDC notes that regular physical activity as one ages helps muscles grow stronger, which increases the chances that an individual will be able to perform necessary daily activities without the assistance of others. Maintaining that independence into older adulthood is a goal for many men and women, and it's a goal that's far more realistic for men and women who exercise than it is for those who don't.

When coupled with a healthy, low-calorie diet, routine exercise can help men and women over 50 shed extra weight and keep the weight off once it's gone. According to the CDC, older adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 more days a week. These muscle-strengthening activities should work all the major muscle groups, including the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, working out with resistance bands, exercise such as push-ups and sit-ups that use body weight for resistance, and yoga. Even gardening that involves digging and shoveling can be considered a muscle-strengthening activity.

Weight gain is often an expected side effect of aging. But men and women don't have to gain weight as they get older. Some simple dietary changes and a commitment to routine exercise is all it takes to shed weight after 50 and keep that weight off once it's gone.

Senior food pyramid guidelines

Fruit. Focus on whole fruits rather than juices for more fiber and vitamins and aim for around 1 ½ to 2 servings each day. Break the apple and banana rut and go for color-rich pickings like berries or melons.

Veggies. Color is your credo in this category. Choose antioxidant-rich dark, leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as well as orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots, squash, and yams. Try for 2 to 2 ½ cups of veggies every day.

Calcium. Maintaining bone health as you age depends on adequate calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Seniors need 1,200 mg of calcium a day through servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Non-dairy sources include tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.

Grains. Be smart with your carbs and choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients and more fiber. If you're not sure, look for pasta, breads, and cereals that list "whole" in the ingredient list. Seniors need 6-7 ounces of grains each day (one ounce is about 1 slice of bread).

Protein. Seniors need about 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Simply divide your bodyweight in half to know how many grams you need. A 130-pound woman will need around 65 grams of protein a day. A serving of tuna, for example, has about 40 grams of protein. Vary your sources with more fish, beans, peas, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, and seeds.

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