One of the main reasons we gain weight with aging is that we gradually lose muscle mass, about 1% every year, says Donald D. Hensrud, assistant professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the College of Medicine at Mayo Clinic. This causes a decrease in our basic metabolism, that is, the process of burning calories while we are at rest. The lower the metabolic rate, the less calories we burn.
"It may be inconspicuous from year to year, but compare the amount of muscle mass from the average 80-year-old to the average 20-year-old, and it becomes more apparent," says Hensrud, also medical director of the Healthy Living Program at the Mayo Clinic. "The more muscle mass we have, the faster our resting metabolic rate."
Also, spontaneous physical activity ̵
1; separate from exercise – often rises with age, he says.
"Overall, the average 80-year-old will move less in small and large ways during the day than the average 20-year-old," says Hensrud. "And the exercises that are separate from daily activities are likely to decrease, although this greatly affects the smaller proportion of people who exercise regularly."
Bethesda nutritionist Jessica Mergiothio agrees. "Many patients admit that they move less overall when they get older, and the first thing I recommend to lose weight is to add weight training – at least two to three days a week – to slow down sarcopenia (age-related loss muscle mass), along with an extra day or two of cardiovascular exercise, "she says in an email.
She suggests working with a personal trainer, especially a weight trainer, to learn how to lift safely and effectively.
"On top of that, I encourage my patients to meet the 10 0 goal 00 steps a day, so they do walks all day or do house or yard work, compared to getting out of the gym and sitting all day, "she said." It will also affect metabolic rate "
Hormone changes – lowering testosterone in men and estrogen and progesterone in women – can also affect weight. But it's a false assumption that menopausal women gain more weight than men, Hensrud says. Rather, both genders gain weight, but weight tends to be redistributed to women faster than men, often ending up in the abdomen – one of the reasons for this misconception.
"Weight gain seems to affect men and women alike," he says, usually about a pound or more a year, often between Thanksgiving and New Year's.
"It doesn't look like much, but it does accumulate a lot for the whole population," he says. "This is cumulative. Remains of. So after 20 or 30 years it accumulates. During menopause, weight gain [in both sexes] is about the same. But [in women] the weight shifts more towards the abdomen, so more weight gain seems. The same thing happens in men – more weight gain with age in the abdomen, but it manifests itself more gradually. ”
There may also be physiological effects at work. A recent study shows that lipid turnover in fat (where the body stores fat) decreases during the aging process, which means that the removal of fat from fat cells slows down, contributing to weight gain.
Researchers examined fat cells in 54 men and women over a 13-year period, all of which show a decrease in the rate of lipid turnover. The results show that fat processes "regulate changes in body weight during aging in a way that is independent of other factors," says Peter Arner of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and one of the main authors of the study, along with collaborators at the University in Uppsala in Sweden and the University of Lyon in France.
Experts suggest that people exercise regularly, monitor calories, lift weights, and exercise throughout the day, avoiding sitting as much as possible.
"All kinds of physical activity burn calories and are important," says Hensrud. "Resistance training [weightlifting] helps to lose belly fat. Exercise is the most effective way to burn calories, "especially high-intensity interval training or HIIT, that is, short bursts of intense exercise followed by short recovery periods.
" [HIIT] has also been shown to help lose belly fat. he says. "Running all day instead of sitting can also help burn a relatively large amount of calories."
Murgueytio warns that if exercise and muscle mass are reduced, it is important to compensate by reducing calories. "I encourage my patients to work on serving portions and eat more low-calorie foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, as they will fill us with less total calories and are important for aging, vitality and disease prevention." , she says
The good news is that weight gain seems to have stabilized after the mid-60s, in part because people often eat less when they get old, Hensrud says. Obesity among the over-60s is about 41%, compared to nearly 43% for people aged 40 to 59 and 36% for those between 20 and 39, according to the CDC.
"Although physical activity is likely to continue to decline throughout life, energy intake [calorie] also tends to decrease in the elderly," he says.