A friend recently asked me, “Is it really harder to lose weight as we get older?”
Well, I don’t know about you, but for me my first thought was “Oh heck, yeah!” At 47, I find getting rid of that stubborn extra 5 or 10 lbs takes much longer and requires harder workouts than it did when I was in my twenties. The big question is WHY? So, I decided to investigate and (in a nutshell) here is what I found.
As we age, our muscle tissue shrinks for reasons unknown by scientists and doctors. Add in hormonal changes and wear and tear on muscles, which can make the body less efficient at cell damage repair and replenishing.
Why is this important? Because diminished muscle cells won’t burn calories, which means those calories will probably be turned into fat, which slows down weight loss in a number of ways. For example, your endurance and strength for exercise becomes limited or your muscles may lose tone even with regular bouts at the gym.
Additionally, another study done by the Mayo Clinic states that hormonal changes don’t necessarily trigger weight gain in women, but they can change the way your body looks. You combine this with yo-yo dieting over the years and you have caused permanent damage to the body.
Yo-yo dieting causes muscle loss, and muscle is needed to boost your metabolism and burn fat. When you are in a constant state of losing muscle over a period of time, your body changes its composition. Because fat loss takes longer and is harder to accomplish than losing muscle or water weight, each time you “diet,” it will become harder and harder to accomplish your weight loss goals.
So what is a girl or guy to do? Well, we know that as we age, our desire and level of physical activity often decreases. Add in the above hormonal information and the fact that our metabolism is slowing down, and you have a recipe for weight gain.
Luckily, there is a solution. Adjust your caloric intake to reflect the changes in your body. Simply, reduce the calories you take in, and continue with exercise and physical activity. Just reducing your daily intake by 100 calories could aid in maintaining a healthy weight.
If you are already overweight or if you have been steadily gaining weight as you get older, it is important to change your lifestyle habits sooner, rather than later, as more and more your muscle turns to fat, you put yourself at risk for serious health conditions like heart disease, Type II diabetes, cancer, and stroke. We know that age is not the determining factor of these health risks, but being overweight can increase your chances of having any of these health conditions.
So, my conclusion is yes, it is harder to lose weight as you get older. However, it is not an excuse to stop eating right and exercising on a daily basis. Moreover, it is a definitive reason to start/continue a path of healthy eating and a fit lifestyle.
Merlinda Swearingen, CPT
Merlinda Swearingen is a Navy wife and mother of two growing boys (12 and 10). She teaches group fitness classes at ODU's student recreation center and is a certified personal trainer, group exercise instructor, pilates instructor, personal fitness chef, and business owner with over 15 years experience in the fitness industry. She enjoys spending time with her family, church family, cooking, camping, and finding new information and ideas that are trending in the area of fitness and health. Living a healthy and fit lifestyle is a passion she enjoys sharing with anyone and everyone she meets.