As we age, we burn fewer calories and become less mobile. This can be a deadly combination when it comes to managing obesity in elderly populations. Extra pounds often accumulate gradually, meaning that many older people seem to suddenly find themselves with a weight problem. But putting on excess weight isn’t inevitable. Here’s what seniors can do to win the battle of the bulge against elderly obesity:
Because our metabolism slows down as we age, seniors simply don’t need as many calories as younger people to keep their bodies running. Men over 50 who are lightly to moderately active need about 2,000 to 2,600 calories a day. Women over 50 who are lightly to moderately active need about 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day.
Try these tips to help you stick to a healthy diet and combat elderly obesity:
- If you don’t have unhealthy foods around, you can’t indulge. Make a shopping list before you go to the grocery store, and stick to it. Avoid shopping when you’re hungry.
- Learn portion control. A good rule of thumb is that most of the time, half your meal should be vegetables. The other half should be equally divided between proteins and grains. Proteins should be low in fat, such as chicken breasts or fish, and grains should be whole grains, cooking without lots of added fat. To see the new USDA food recommendations, click here.
- Think moderation. If you eliminate your favorite foods entirely, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to stick to your diet. It’s ok to eat a slice of cake once in a while! But make it a treat, not a rule.
- Keep healthy snacks around. If you get hungry between meals, don’t deny yourself–just keep it healthy. A piece of fruit or another healthy snack such as raw, sliced vegetables have enough fiber to fill you up and hold you over until the next meal.
Many elderly people think that they can’t or shouldn’t exercise. But it’s a myth that exercise isn’t good for the elderly. Exercise can benefit anyone of any age. Exercise will help you look and feel younger, and keep you healthy longer. It will lower your risk for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other symptoms of elderly obesity. And it’s never too late to start! Try these tips:
- Start small. If you don’t exercise, getting started can be intimidating. Try going for a short walk every day. A 10-minute walk burns 100 calories.
- Don’t be afraid of falling. Many elderly people are worried that exercising will make them fall. But regular exercise not only helps prevent against elderly obesity, it improves your agility and balance, reducing your risk of falling.
- If you’re disabled, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. If you are in a wheelchair, you can lift weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics.
- Look into local senior fitness classes. Senior fitness classes are specially geared to the abilities of elderly people. And they can be a great way to get out and socialize!
- Try water aerobics. Water exercises are easy on joints and good for those with compromised balance.
- Disciplines like yoga and Tai Chi focus on strength, balance, and flexibility, all things that contribute to your overall health.
Nutrition and exercise are just as important for the elderly as they are for anyone else. By making your health a priority and keeping obesity at bay, you’ll be on track to living a longer and more enjoyable life.