Dieting After 60: 5 Tips for Safe and Healthy Weight Loss
A little extra weight in old age may be protective, as recent research suggests. However, too much weight contributes to health problems ranging from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers and mental illnesses. For seniors coping with changes to balance and mobility, excess weight is also a risk factor for falls.
If your doctor has recommended weight loss, you might be wondering about the right way to go about it. After all, the fad diets and workout plans aren’t necessarily suited to an aging body. You have nutritional needs to account for, joints to protect and muscle mass to preserve. So, what exactly does safe and healthy weight loss look like when you’re 60 and over?
1. Practice Portion Control
For the most part, weight loss happens in the kitchen, not the gym. It’s much simpler to cut calories consumed than to burn them off through exercise. One of the easiest ways to cut calories is by practicing portion control. Read the serving sizes on packaged foods so you understand how much food equates a single serving. If you finish a meal and find you’re still hungry, opt for second portions of lower-calorie items like roasted vegetables and side salads rather than doubling up on carbs or snacking on junk food.
2. Maximize Nutritional Intake
Cutting calories makes it harder to get the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. However, it’s not impossible. You just need to be mindful of your meals to ensure you’re getting adequate nutrition. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics identifies calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, potassium, and fiber as particularly important for older adults. Food, not supplements, is the most effective source of these nutrients, so build your diet around fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and seafood, whole grains, legumes, and fortified dairy products. If you’re considering which of the many fad diets might appeal to you, it’s important to learn about each one and see how they can impact your body and overall well-being before jumping in.
3. Preserve and Build Muscle
Muscle isn’t just for aesthetics. Muscle mass is critical for maintaining functional strength and balance into the later years. But as people age, muscle mass diminishes: After 40, the average person loses 8 percent of their muscle mass each decade. After 70, that increases to 15 percent. That leaves seniors more vulnerable to injury and makes recovery slower after injury occurs. To preserve and build muscle in later life, aging adults must consume adequate protein and incorporate strength-training exercise into their fitness regimen.
4. Choose Low-Impact Exercise
For many seniors, a fear of injury keeps them from exercise. However, there are many low-impact exercises that improve strength and cardiovascular health without risking safety. Walking, swimming, yoga, and cycling are just a few low-impact exercises that seniors can enjoy. You can find more ideas for low-impact exercise at SilverSneakers. Other workouts can be modified to reduce impact on joints. Consider setting up a home gym with dumbbells, resistance bands, a yoga mat, and other basic equipment so you can find the modifications that work for you without the expense, inconvenience, or pressure of a public gym.
5. Train for Balance
A well-rounded fitness regimen for seniors should also include balance training. Falling is one of the greatest risks to senior health. When you’re elderly, a fracture sustained in a fall may never heal fully, leading to permanent disability. Include balance training in your fitness regimen with these exercises recommended by the National Council for Aging Care. If your balance is already significantly impaired, stay safe by doing balance training with a friend or trainer.
You can’t slow the hands of time, but you can slow time’s effects on your body. If you want to remain healthy and mobile as you age, few things are as important as maintaining a healthy weight. If you have a few pounds to spare, talk to your doctor about how you can lose weight without putting nutritional and physical health at risk.
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