Your body naturally loses muscle as you age, but training with weights can help you gain it back and boost your metabolism. As the years add up, so do the pounds, it seems. Even if you maintain the same diet and the same physical activity level, you may still see the number on the scale creep up as you age.
Adults gain an average of 1 pound per year, and while that doesn't sound like much, it can add up over the decades, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.
Why We Gain Weight as We Age
1. Slower Metabolism
With age, our bodies tend to burn calories at a slower rate, in fact, the speed at which we break down food decreases by about 10% for each decade after age 20. Most people tend to blame a slowed-down metabolism for age-related weight gain. But that's not the whole story.
2. Loss of Muscle Mass
"The problem is, we naturally lose muscle mass as we age" indeed, people generally start to lose lean tissue and gain fat after age 30. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, this means that if there are two people both at rest, the person with more muscle mass will be burning off more calories. Older people may have about one-third more body fat compared to when they were younger, and this fat tends to accumulate around the belly.
3. Less Physical Activity
Nearly a third of adults older than 50 are physically inactive. When we move less, we burn less calories. The recommendation for all adults is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, walking, biking each week.
4. Hormone Changes
Changing hormones also play a role in age-related weight gain. For people assigned male at birth, the years come with a drop in testosterone, which causes the body to lose muscle and gain fat. Estrogen in those assigned female at birth also decreases with age. This lack of estrogen causes the body to hold on to fat in the least desirable place the midsection. With all that said, age-related weight gain isn't totally inevitable.
How to Stop Weight Gain With Age
1. Get More Sleep
A good night's rest does wonders, including improving your metabolism and hunger levels. About 1 in 3 adults don't get enough sleep. Such sleep deprivation is linked to reduced insulin sensitivity, which causes insulin resistant hunger and leads to overeating and weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a sleep schedule, exercising regularly, turning off electronics before bed and avoiding caffeine at night to help you catch better shut-eye.
2. Count Those Calories
We need to take a step back and assess our eating habits. Are we still snacking on processed foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt? Do we eat whatever we want whenever we want? As we age, it's more important than ever to make every calorie count. That means making nutritious choices as often as possible and staying away from empty-calorie foods like chips, soda and sweets. Balancing the number of calories you consume and the number of calories you burn will help keep your weight stable despite the effects of age.
3. Snack Sensibly
Nuts are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber to keep you feeling full between meals. Despite the fact that nuts are also high in fat and calorie-dense, they are excellent little snacks for weight control. In other words, snacking on a handful of nutrient-dense nuts as opposed to chips and other processed and refined snacks may help curb the scale creep associated with aging. As a bonus, eating raw nuts twice a week is associated with a 17 percent lower risk of death from heart disease.
4. Release the Stress
With age comes a little wisdom and a lot of stress. Our bodies have a harder time recovering from stress as we age. This makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight for a variety of reasons. "Not only can stress cause you to have poor sleep quality or make poor dietary choices, it can also increase levels of a hormone called cortisol, High cortisol levels are linked to increased abdominal fat, reduced insulin sensitivity, inflammation, indigestion and more — all of which can contribute to weight gain.
5. Start Strength Training
When you mention weight loss, most people drop the weights and dash over to the closest cardio machine. However, resistance training is one of the best ways to combat age-related weight gain. Build more muscle by adopting a resistance training regimen. Working out different muscle groups, with sets of 8 to 12 repetitions, at least twice a week. Use anything that resists your movement, like resistance bands, dumbbells or even your own body weight. Squats, burpees, push-ups and pull-ups using the body's own resistance are some of the most effective weight training exercises for weight loss.