Yes, there can be a little more fat on our bodies than we'd like at 50+, but before we discuss that let’s look at how it got here. One of the biggest challenges of losing body fat after the age of 50 is often related to the dwindling effect of newfound enthusiasm. You're motivated to start (and you do), but it doesn’t take long and you’re back to the old ways. We’ve all been there. You might find yourself lazing in bed an hour longer instead of doing your exercises. Or, you might find yourself uttering the words, “not today, I’m too tired”. One way to safeguard yourself from slipping into old ways and neglecting your health and fitness is to create a healthy and strong foundation. While you probably won’t change behaviors overnight, you can work on actively making better choices a habit instead of a chore.
Table of Contents:
Motivation can be an elusive thing in the 50+ world. One moment you’re motivated to do something, and the next, you’re daydreaming or relaxing. Getting older means that motivation escapes you from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be a long-term thing. Motivation is all about establishing long-lasting behavioral change. To do this, concentrate on the short-term goals. If you’re overly focused on your main goal, you’re going to feel despondent early on in the process. If you want to lose body fat and go down three jeans sizes, you can’t keep thinking of that. Set a shorter small goal that you can achieve on the way. For instance, going down just one jeans size to start with is an excellent short-term goal
Understanding Body Changes at 50
After 50, metabolism tends to slow down due to a combination of factors. One significant contributor is the gradual loss of lean muscle mass, a process known as sarcopenia, which typically accelerates with age. Since muscles are more metabolically active than fat tissue, this decline results in a decrease in the overall metabolic rate. Additionally, hormonal changes, especially a decline in estrogen and testosterone levels during menopause and andropause, play a role in reducing metabolic activity. Furthermore, lifestyle factors such as decreased physical activity and potentially poor dietary habits over the years can contribute to a slower metabolism. These factors collectively create a scenario where the body requires fewer calories to function, leading to weight gain if dietary habits are not adjusted accordingly.
Hormonal changes also play a significant role in fat storage. In women, menopause leads to a decline in estrogen levels, which not only affects bone health but also contributes to a shift in fat distribution. Fat tends to be stored more in the abdominal area rather than in the hips and thighs, which is associated with an increased risk of metabolic issues. In men, there's a gradual decline in testosterone levels, leading to a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in body fat, particularly around the abdomen. Both estrogen and testosterone play crucial roles in regulating metabolism and maintaining a healthy body composition. As these hormones decrease, the body's ability to efficiently utilize and burn calories diminishes, making it easier to accumulate and store fat. Managing these hormonal changes through lifestyle choices, including regular exercise and a balanced diet, becomes essential for maintaining a healthy weight and overall well-being.
Healthy Eating Habits
What, when and how to eat our meals is unique from person to person. Let’s be clear; eating is very necessary to fuel your body and for your body to benefit from exercise. It’s also crucial to encourage muscle repair and maintain strength. The key to successful exercising is planning what to eat and when to eat it. This applies to all forms of exercise, not just high energy cardio workouts. Even the slower movements required for core strengthening, yoga and pilates require energy and thus a good eating regime. However, knowing what or when to eat to support your workout and rest days is something you wrestle with, you are not alone. Internet blogs, sports magazines, health-nuts, and friends all have their opinions on the matter.
Let’s understand the role of carbohydrates and proteins in our diet. Both are crucial for getting the best out of our exercise routines. Eating right ensures you get the best out of your workout without feeling too sluggish. Carbohydrates are good for you. Those five words would typically have every health addict gasping for air as they struggle to comprehend such a statement! After all, aren’t carbs the bad guys? Unfortunately, carbs have a bad reputation; with so many diets slashing them from the menu due to their supposed health defects, it’s no wonder everyone believes they need to avoid them.
If you googled the side effects of excessive carbohydrate intake, you would discover a shopping list of carb related health problems. These include weight gain, fatigue, brain fog and even acne. So it would seem that carbs are virtually to blame for everything! However, the truth is that any food type in excess is bound to affect your body negatively. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of fuel and energy. Furthermore, a whopping 45%-65% of our daily calorie intake should consist of carbs, especially when exercising. But, before you start loading your plate with sweet treats, pizza and chips, the type of carb you consume is where the puzzle gets clearer.
Carbs are classed into two categories, simple and complex. The simple carbs are the type our waistline and sweet-tooth love, processed foods, sweets and sugary desserts. While the complex carbs are the ones you should be feasting on, these are found in beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Whole grains are especially beneficial to our bodies as they are digested slowly (slow energy release), help us feel satisfied for longer and regulate the body’s sugar levels. In addition, they are packed with the vitamins and minerals required to keep our bodies functioning at their best. Fueling up on complex carbohydrates ensures the body is energized and has the stamina to complete the workout.
Effective Exercise Strategies
Now that you’ve zoomed past 50, the last thing you want to do is waste your time on things that don’t work. Social media and your groups of friends are awash with all the latest fads and diets. There’s a lot out there claiming to be the real deal. So how are you to know what works and what doesn’t, especially on a machine that’s older than 50? Well, that’s the thing, you don’t.
The best thing to quell your fears is to look at the statistics and reliable sources. According to reports by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, men and women need more strength training exercises as they age to stay mobile and able in everyday activities. They also say that the main exercise goals for 50+ers are to minimize muscle mass loss and the resulting loss of motor function. The study results also recommended that older people train three to four times per week for the best results. Exercises like strength training or resistance training will keep you strong, healthy, and moving comfortably.
Lose Body Fat
Maintaining a range of motion as we age is imperative – this is non-negotiable! Neglecting range of motion maintenance will result in the shortening and tightening of your muscles, which doesn’t sound comfortable at all. We all want to keep our muscles strong, flexible, and healthy for as long as possible. When muscles are regularly trained, they are ready to jump into action when needed without any pesky injuries setting in.
At the risk of sounding far too obvious, strength training builds strength. You might have guessed that strength is vitally important when you’re heading past your 50th year. Physical exercise has a beneficial effect on various age-related conditions, including the following:
Overall decreased functional capacity
Reduced independence (when unfit, you need more help with things)
With all of this info in mind, it becomes obvious that strength training is a good idea. Of course, we don’t want to become a burden on our children and loved ones as we get older.
Lifestyle Changes & Long Term Results
It’s reasonable to think that you need to make it a habit if you want to keep up with your strength training long-term. Being consistent and forcing yourself to practice even when you don’t want to is a good step in the right direction. Sure, it sounds uncomfortable to force yourself to do anything, but it’s really just a short-term struggle you will have with your mind. As soon as your mind is on board, a habit can form. And then you’re onto a good thing. Then exercise will just be part of your day, like eating and breathing.
Healthy aging is about staying physically active, finding new things to enjoy, and connecting with family and friends. For many people, growing older brings fear and anxiety that stem from misconceptions. The reality is that you are more potent and resilient than you realize. With the right approach, you can maintain your emotional and physical health; and thrive, whatever the circumstances or your age.
Make Healthy Food Choices
We’ve all seen other 50+ers make some questionable food choices along the way. We’ve heard every excuse in the book, from “we’re old enough to eat what we want now” and the common “who do I need to look good for anyway?” In the end, these are just excuses. Eating healthy can be tough. It almost seems like we revert to the convenient meals we wanted in our teens. Making healthy food choices now will do great things for your future health. And it’s not about limiting yourself to bland meals or eating purely for good looks. What you eat can impact your body’s ability to cope and, of course, either strengthen or weaken you to diseases.
Consulting with Health Professionals. Embarking on a weight loss journey is a commendable decision, but it's crucial to prioritize health and safety along the way. Before diving into any weight loss program, undergoing medical check-ups is essential. These evaluations provide valuable insights into one's current health status, uncovering potential underlying issues that might affect or be affected by weight loss efforts. Conditions like cardiovascular issues, metabolic disorders, or hormonal imbalances can impact the effectiveness and safety of weight loss strategies. A comprehensive understanding of one's health allows for the creation of a personalized and sustainable weight loss plan.
Now is the time to take the next step: getting active. Be aware of anytime you feel like making excuses. Life can be amazing after 50 ...especially when you're physically able to enjoy it. Make this the healthiest time of your life! They say the real fun starts at 50. If so, there's no reason you should spend it in pain, discomfort, and declining health.
Our recommended book: LIFE AFTER 50: STRENGTH TRAINING