All the talk about habits and mindset is well and good, and I dare say, crucial. But what about your diet and exercise. Which is best for weight loss when you’re over 50?
While you’ve undoubtedly heard that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, two of the worst culprits for weight gain over the age of 50 are loss of muscle mass, and reduced activity.
Reduced activity leads to the loss of muscle mass, which in turn lowers your metabolism. This means you need fewer calories to just STAY the same weight.
Even if you manage to keep your weight down through sheer effort and willpower, the balance of muscle to fat will slowly change.
Take a look at the pound of butter, below. You may not think a pound here or there, either lost or gained matters much.
But that is one pound of fat. I’m telling you, when you see it like this, each one of these babies that replaces a pound of lost muscle is UNWELCOME!
And since muscle tissue uses more energy than fat tissue, the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn just by sitting around!
It eventually turns in a Catch-22 situation. Reduced activity, besides resulting in lowered metabolism, can lead to arthritis and joint problems.
Those in turn make the thought of exercise less attractive, and you may eventually just give up altogether.
Exercise and healthy eating habits are really equally important, but one without the other, especially when you’re over 50 just doesn’t make sense.
Working Out Over 50
While moving your body is important at any age, exercise is absolutely crucial as you age. New studies come out constantly, but we know for certain, for example, that inflammation is one of the leading causes of what we call aging.
Working out regularly can not only boost your immune function, it also lowers inflammation. I don’t know about you, but writing this in May of 2020 leads me to believe we’d all appreciate better immune function.
And not just because some newfangled virus is ravaging the world. But for always!
If some regular exercise can help your immune system and lower inflammation, that is a huge incentive to get started, or keep going.
And the good thing is, you don’t need to do some 90-minute all-out over-the-top sweat fest to reap the anti-inflammatory benefits. Just a moderate 20 minutes on a treadmill (or outdoors for a walk) will do the trick.
Exercise of course also helps with weight management, though it needs to be in conjunction with a healthy diet to do the most good.
How To Get An Exercise Habit Going
If you are not in the habit of regular exercise and you’re over 50, sweetie, you’ve got to get off your butt.
Now, diving headfirst into hour-long workout sessions isn’t practical if the current extent of working out for you is walking from the couch to the fridge. But you can get started small and work your way up.
My number one recommendation if you’re just starting out, or coming back to exercise after a long absence is good old walking.
Just about anyone can walk! You can start out with a slow stroll and walk for 5 minutes, slowly building up your time and speed.
You can even try my free 6-week beginner’s walking program.
Walking isn’t the only possible exercise you can start with. Marching in place while you watch TV, dancing, jump rope (pretty advanced), and swinging a kettlebell will all work.
In addition, there are zillions of FREE workouts on Youtube. I wrote about some of my favorite short Youtube workouts in another post.
Find something that YOU like to do. If you try something and decide you hate it, try something else. For example, I personally love to jog at a regulation track. Other people hate that and find it terribly boring.
The important thing is to do something you can stick with for a time. Change it up later if you want, just keep yourself moving every day.
You Need To Build Muscle, Too
I know what you’re thinking! Just starting a walking program is enough. And it is at first, especially if you’ve been doing nothing.
But strength training is crucial for those of us in our fifties and beyond. I’m not kidding around here.
And because it can keep your metabolism higher even after your sweat sessions, it helps with over-50 weight loss as well.
The authors of the fantastic (and newly updated) book, Younger Next Year, contend that you can eliminate around 70% of age related problems with exercise until you’re well into your 80s.
In addition, you can eliminate up to 50% of age related diseases. With exercise. Seriously, it’s that important.
What You Eat Is Equally Important
Of course what you eat is very important as well. Many nutrition and weight loss experts maintain that losing weight is 80% diet and 20% exercise.
I just don’t want you thinking you can get by without some movement and strength training!
One thing for sure, you likely need to eat less than you did 20 years ago to maintain your weight. Fact is, your metabolism slows as you age, and as mentioned above, losing muscle mass is one reason for that.
You’ve also probably noticed over the years that portion sizes in restaurants have increased dramatically. Same goes with dish sizes!
And just like I can barely remember what day-to-day life was like 20 years ago without Google, without actively thinking about it–or actually comparing–chances are you rarely think about the difference in plate sizes.
When I was young, we ate 3 meals a day, period. Once in a great while we had dessert, but it was certainly not an everyday thing.
And we didn’t constantly snack, either. Eating popcorn, for example, was for the movies, or maybe some game night, or New Year’s Eve. Remember Jiffy-Pop?
So What Should You Eat To Lose Or Maintain Your Weight?
This is not rocket science. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats. Major on those in reasonable proportions, and you’ll be good.
Of course, you may need to make adjustments if you’re allergic, have celiac disease or some other health condition that requires a special diet.
You don’t need to exclude any particular food, or treats, desserts, etc. Just have them occasionally and in moderation.
The same goes for moderate drinking of alcohol. Just check what is considered moderate. You may be in for a surprise!
This means if you generally have a couple glasses of wine in the evening, you’ve essentially doubled the quantity for moderate drinking per week (if you’re a woman). Yikes.
So just be careful there. Although alcohol in moderation is fine, you don’t want to go overboard for a variety of reasons, including that the calories are really empty ones.
You Need Diet And Exercise To Lose Weight
Especially if you’re over fifty. Healthy eating is imperative. But when you’re over fifty, exercise is equally important for healthy aging.
Also, for keeping your metabolism humming to stave off muscle loss. Not to mention exercise confers a host of other benefits.
Take small steps to eat more healthy food, and get some exercise. Starting small is key. Don’t try to take on too much at a time, and remember that both diet and exercise are important to losing weight after fifty.
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