Weight loss is challenging at any age, but after 55 it can become more difficult. As you age, changes in your body such as the slowing of the metabolism and loss of muscle mass work against weight loss. Unfortunately, weight gain over 55 increases your risk for heart disease, osteoporosis and some cancers. While weight loss isn't easy, it's not impossible. Through a healthy diet, regular exercise and an active lifestyle, you can lose fat after 55.
Consult your doctor before starting a diet or exercise program.
Reduce your calorie consumption. People over 51 need 200 fewer calories than they ate when they were younger, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines. To lose 1 pound of fat, you need to cut 3,500 calories from your diet. However, don't cut too many calories at once or you can hinder weight loss. The recommended calorie intake for a woman over 51 is 1,600 calories if she's sedentary and up to 2,200 calories if she's active. It's 2,000 calories for sedentary men and up to 2,800 for active men. Choose healthy foods such as lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole fiber.
Do 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular activity four to six days a week. If you're new to exercise, start small with 30 minutes a few days a week and build up as you get stronger. Do any activities that interest you such as walking, aerobic dance or swimming. If time is a factor, exercise for 10 minutes three times a day, suggests FamilyDoctor.org.
Build muscle with weight-bearing exercise twice a week. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day to help with weight loss. Muscle promotes bone health to lower your risk of osteoporosis and helps you stay mobile as you get older. Build muscle in all the major muscle groups: legs, abs, back, arms and shoulders. A personal trainer can design a weight-training program based on your fitness level.
Be active throughout the day to burn calories by making lifestyle choices that use more energy. Walk instead of drive when possible. Park away from your destination and walk. Skip the elevator or escalator and take the stairs instead. WorldHealth.net reports that taking the stairs can reduce your risk of premature death by 15 percent.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleep difficulties are common as you get older, especially for women during menopause. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. You should strive for at least seven hours of sleep to avoid weight gain, according to a 2006 study in the "Journal of Epidemiology."
- MedlinePlus: Aging Changes in Body Shape
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- FamilyDoctor.org: The Exercise Habit
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Strength Training?
- WorldHealth.net: Taking the Stairs Instead of the Elevator Cuts Risk of Premature Death
- "Journal of Epidemiology": Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women
Leslie Truex has been telecommuting and freelancing since 1994. She wrote the "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" and is a career/business and writing instructor at Piedmont Virginia Community College. Truex has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Willamette University and a Master of Social Work from California State University-Sacramento. She has been an Aerobics and Fitness Association of America certified fitness instructor since 2001.