Take steps now to help keep your weight in a healthy range for years to come.
Planning for the future is just as important when you’re 50 as it was when you were 18. To reach older age physically fit and in good health, for example, it’s smart to manage your weight now.
People’s weight often creeps up on them as they grow older. And those extra pounds can increase the risk for health problems, says Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
However, taking action now can help you keep your weight in a healthy range for years to come.
With age comes—extra pounds?
At any age, taking in more calories than you use can cause weight gain. But as you age, your metabolism slows, meaning you’ll need fewer calories each day. As a result, you might gain weight even if your diet and exercise habits haven’t changed.
As people get older, most of them have to continually eat less in order to avoid gaining weight, Frechman says. That’s especially true if you have a health problem, such as arthritis, that makes it more difficult to exercise, she says.
Find out how many calories you need each day using this calculator.
Why does weight matter?
Being overweight can have a variety of harmful health effects.
For example, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis, sleep apnea, cancer and depression are all associated with being overweight.
At the other end of the health spectrum, older people whose weight is in the normal range are likely to enjoy better health, have more energy and feel more confident, Frechman says.
To find out if your weight is in a healthy range, calculate your body mass index (BMI).
Managing your weight through the years
Managing your weight isn’t a short-term project. To ensure that your weight stays in a healthy range in the years to come, you’ll need to make the following healthy lifestyle choices a permanent part of your life:
Eat well. Even though you may need fewer calories as you age, you still need to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet.
Develop a healthy eating plan that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean sources of protein and healthy fats. This type of diet will provide balance, variety and moderation with fewer calories, Frechman says.
You can learn more about developing a healthy eating plan at www.choosemyplate.gov. A registered dietitian can also help you learn more about eating well.
Stay active. Unless you have a medical condition that restricts exercise, you should aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) each week or 1 hour and 15 minutes of intense aerobic activity (such as running), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days a week. In some cases, you may need even more exercise than this to lose weight or maintain your weight.
You can get activity at once or break up your activity into 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Take a walk during your lunch break, for example.
Not active now? Start with a few minutes of an exercise such as walking. Gradually increase the minutes as you become stronger.
Brisk walking, hiking, playing golf (if you walk and carry your clubs), bicycling and weight training are examples of moderate exercise.
If you’re up for more vigorous activity, try running or jogging, freestyle swimming, aerobics, or weightlifting. (Check with your doctor first if you aren’t used to vigorous exercise or have a medical condition that could be made worse by exercise.)
For more information about achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, visit the Weight Management health topic center.