As we age, our body composition can change dramatically. Sometimes these changes seem to creep up on us, and we haven’t made shifts in our diet and exercise to assist us in adapting to this change.
In 1999, the results of a longitudinal study (called the Fels Longitudinal Study) were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. One of the primary goals of the study was to examine changes in body composition as we change.
What Happens to Our Bodies as We Age?
The changes in body composition as we age are as follows:
- Total body fat
- Percentage of body fat
- Body-Mass Index (BMI)
- Fat-free mass (including muscle)
In other words, as we age, our body’s tend to have more fat and less muscle. Why? According to another study, with age comes a slower resting metabolic rate (how much energy we use at rest), meaning that we need fewer calories to maintain our weight. Additionally, with the aches and pains that come with aging, we also tend to move around less and to exert less strength. All of these elements combine to result in higher fat percentage, greater weight, and less muscle.
High fat and limited muscle in body composition are linked to a range of health issues including heart disease and stroke.
As a result, maintaining a healthy weight and body composition is key to improving quality of life. But, just as our body changes over the years, so do our physical activity needs.
What is the Best Way to Lose Weight for Older Adults?
Since mobility is often limited, walking tends to be the exercise of choice for older adults. While walking is essential for supporting the aerobic functioning of the heart, a recent study demonstrates that the best way for older adults to lose weight may be to lift weights, rather than to walk, jog, or bike.
This study, published in the journal Obesity, looked at the physical activity of over 240 adults in their 60s for over a year and a half. Those who used resistance-weight machines resulted in less muscle loss, but more fat loss, than walking and dieting alone.
If you or a loved one is creeping into their 60s, and you want to promote health and well-being as we age, make sure that weight training is your go-to exercise to prevent muscle loss and weight gain.