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Tips on Safe Weight Loss for Seniors

Contributed by Guest Blogger, Kevin Wells of Senior Diabetic

Weight loss is a different proposition for seniors than it is for younger age groups. The typical model for weight loss is based on shedding pounds and obsessing over what the bathroom scale says every morning. But when people get older, it’s not quite that cut and dry. Older adults can’t afford to lose bone or muscle mass or tissue, which means that this requires a whole new concept of weight loss. Exercise becomes even more important and should go hand in hand with a diet aimed at reducing body fat and managing waist size. If you’re a caregiver, be aware that measuring weight loss in seniors is not about scale readouts; it depends on what calipers or another body fat measurement tool indicates.

Most healthcare professionals will tell you that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water a day and that water facilitates weight loss no matter how old you are. But for the elderly, it’s especially important because as you get older, the hypothalamus, which lets you know when you’re thirsty, becomes less sensitive. Incontinence and constantly running to the bathroom may discourage some seniors from drinking a lot of water, but bear in mind that water is crucial to digestion and maintaining a healthy metabolism. You can help your relative stay on course by setting an alarm on your phone or clock to remind you when it’s time for another glass of water.

Feel the burn
Muscle mass is one of the first things to go as people get older, due to a loss of testosterone or estrogen, among other factors. In fact, once we hit 50, you can expect to lose about 1 percent of muscle mass every year. Unfortunately, a loss of muscle mass also means a reduction in metabolism. And that means weight gain, unless you do something about it. A strength-training program is an excellent way to rebuild the muscle you’ve lost. Take it easy at first, starting with light free weights. This will get your muscles used to the strain and motion and reduce the likelihood of a pull or tear. Resistance bands are also excellent options for seniors because they tone muscle without creating undue muscle trauma. If you choose to use weights, take a gradual approach and increase weight limits when you can do 15 to 20 repetitions. Be careful and don’t go too fast, even if it’s going well.

Lean protein is a good option for seniors looking to reduce body fat, and some studies have shown that getting plenty of protein can even increase muscle mass. If you’re beginning a weight-lifting routine, combine it with a daily intake of protein, including foods like fish, pork, chicken, and nuts. Protein satisfies hunger better than foods that are high in carbohydrates or fats. And it’ll help control cravings for unhealthy snacks.

Keeping muscles toned and flexible is a good idea at any age. Try implementing some yoga stretches first thing in the morning and incorporate resistance band exercises as well. You’ll find that exercising is a lot easier, and it’ll produce fewer aches and pains.

Depression is a common problem among seniors, who are often isolated and suffer from loneliness. A study conducted at Duke Medical Center found that severely depressed adults over the age of 50 who took part in an intensive exercise program benefited significantly after a period of six months. Only eight percent of the more than 150 subjects who participated still showed signs of depression.

Senior caregivers can be a tremendous help to seniors who need to lose weight but want to do it safely and gradually. You can help your care subject maintain a healthy diet and assist with exercises that may be difficult at first. Your help will greatly increase your loved one’s chances of success.

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