It’s no secret that it’s harder to lose weight with age. Previous reports have indicated that the majority of baby boomers are overweight or obese—which makes one wonder if age is to blame or our modern-day society. There are many health risks associated with carrying extra weight, including diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and osteoarthritis. With more of the boomer population working in their mid-60s and beyond while wanting to stay in their own home versus going to an assisted-living facility, remaining as healthy as possible should be at the top of your list. This includes maintaining a safe weight. When it comes to weight loss, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel, yet there are some specific points to keep in mind if you’re a senior.
Set Up a Home Gym
The gym environment can be intimidating for anyone, but some seniors may not feel comfortable mingling with the young professional crowd. Also, membership dues can be expensive, so money may be an issue, too. Setting up a home gym can be a great way to stay motivated to work out in familiar surroundings. Not to mention, there’s not the hassle of having to drive somewhere. Investing in multi-use equipment like flexible resistance bands and dumbbells can go a long way. A yoga mat is also a good way to protect knees when doing floor exercises and/or yoga or Pilates. Look for gently used equipment online or at a local second-hand store. Since it can be difficult to figure out what constitutes an effective routine, a workout DVD can be a great source of guidance. Those who are more tech savvy will find an abundance of apps that offer valuable diet, exercise, and health-related information.
Dos and Don’ts of Exercise
- Do: The best exercises for seniors incorporate balance, endurance, strength, and flexibility. For example, these can include walking, stretching, tai chi, gardening, cycling, light weight lifting, standing push-ups (against a wall), seated leg lifts, balance walking, and tennis ball squeezes. Of course, any activity that causes pain or discomfort should be discontinued immediately.
- Don’t: While limitations to exercise depend on numerous factors like flexibility, mobility, and previous surgeries, some moves should be avoided simply due to age. For example, standing toe touches, abdominal crunches from the floor, behind-the-neck lateral pull-downs, stair climbing, and trunk twists should be avoided.
Dos and Don’ts of Dieting
- Do: Figure out your daily caloric needs. Due to loss of muscle (which lowers metabolism) and being less active, seniors don’t need as many calories as they used to. The exact amount varies dependent upon activity level and nutritional needs. It’s not a bad idea to speak with a nutritionist who can craft a go-to plan that eliminates any ambiguity.
- Don’t: Seniors are more sensitive to foods with high bacterial count, so it’s best to avoid them despite health benefits. Some examples are sprouts, sushi (and oysters, clams, and mussels), diet foods, raw eggs, multigrain bread, unpasteurized milk and juice, raw meat, and soft cheeses.
Before starting any diet or exercise program, seniors should check with their physicians first. It’s likely that there are specific dietary needs and/or mobility restrictions to take into consideration, so honesty is the best policy when it comes to any lifestyle changes. Whether someone is getting back into the game or starting a program for the first time, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to achieving and maintaining weight loss.