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How to Anti-Age Your Scale

By Violet Smith 

Do you weigh more than you did ten years ago, or even five years ago? The extra pounds snuck up on you, accumulated gradually before you even realized it, and now you’re looking at some serious extra poundage. But that’s to be expected as you get older, right?

Wrong.

Putting on excess weight is very common for a number of reasons, but it’s not necessarily an inevitable part of the aging process — as it could put your health at risk. If you understand why you tend to gain weight more easily as you get older, you can do something about it before it becomes a problem for your health.

You can blame a lot of your weight gain on your metabolism. Beginning as early as your mid-twenties, body fat begins to increase while muscle mass decreases. And less muscle mass translates into a slower metabolic rate. Muscle mass decreases from about 45 percent of your total body weight in your youth to about 27 percent by the time you reach age 70. And the drop in hormones that accompanies menopause also precipitates a decrease in muscle mass, triggering even more weight gain for women. Your body fat, meanwhile, can double, even if your weight remains the same.

The bottom line is that you burn fewer calories in your 50s, 60s, or 70s doing the same activities, and the same number of them, that you did in your 20s, 30s, or 40s. The key to preventing weight gain is to compensate by adjusting your food intake, exercising, and generally becoming more physically active.

Now that you have made the decision to lose weight, it’s time to figure how much weight you need to lose.

Assessing Your Weight As You Get Older

Knowing how many calories you need each day is another important piece of information that will help you manage your weight. Most experts say that 2,000 to 2,600 calories a day should meet the energy needs of men older than 50 who are lightly to moderately active.

For women over 50 who are lightly to moderately active, 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day should do it. However, these are just ballpark figures. Individual calorie needs can differ greatly depending on muscle mass, physical activity, and genetic differences.

While it’s true that the more calories you cut, the quicker you’ll lose, don’t make the mistake of cutting back too much. If you go too low (below 1,600 calories a day), you won’t get enough nutrients, you’ll be fatigued, and your body will simply compensate by slowing its metabolic rate even further so that each calorie is used as efficiently as possible.

A slower metabolic rate means that your food sacrifices won’t amount to the weight loss you expected: You’ll have sacrificed for little reward.

For women: Multiply your goal or ideal weight by 13.2 to get your daily calorie needs.

For men: Multiply your goal or ideal weight by 13.5 to get your daily calorie needs.

Triad of Physical Activity

Recent research has found that when it comes to exercise, you need a combination of three types to reap the most health benefits — weight training for strength, aerobic exercise for strength and endurance, and calisthenics (stretching, bending, and twisting exercises) for flexibility.

Studies have found that extreme physical exertion is no more useful to gaining and maintaining fitness than is moderate exercise. What’s more, you place yourself at risk for injury or a heart attack if you’re not already in good physical shape. So start off slowly and increase your activity gradually. Get your doctor’s okay before beginning a new physical activity if you haven’t exercised in years or have a medical condition.

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