As we age, we realize that improving health is about more than just adding years to the end of our life. It's about increasing our quality of life while we’re living it, so every year is rich and vibrant.
For many older Americans, better health can begin by dropping extra pounds that have added up throughout life. Research shows that losing weight gets harder as you get older because your body expends less energy — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
First, Talk to Your Doctor
Before you start a diet or adopt a weight loss plan, it’s wise to consult your doctor about how to safely lose weight. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, Medicare covers an obesity screening and behavioral consultation with a doctor.
Even if you don’t have a BMI of 30 or more, meeting with your physician can be a good place to start your senior weight loss journey. Your doctor should be able to provide advice on how to lose weight for your particular situation, taking into account any other health issues you may be facing.
The Right Diet for Senior Weight Loss
While you might think that increasing the amount of exercise you do is the key to losing weight, research shows changing your diet can be more effective for weight loss. On the other hand, studies also show exercise is critical for maintaining a healthy weight once the pounds come off.
So what’s the best way to alter what you eat to achieve your weight loss goals? A study by Purdue University suggests that adding more lean protein to your daily meals can help you feel full longer, while other scientific evidence shows that consuming fewer processed foods can support weight loss. Meanwhile, filling your plate with fresh vegetables is another science-backed strategy.
The bottom line: Exercise plays a role in keeping your body at a healthy weight, but it’s usually easier to trim a couple hundred calories from your daily diet than it is to burn a couple of hundred calories through working out.
If you’d like to learn more about healthy eating habits and how they can positively affect your life, check out how good food can improve your health.
The Energy Challenge
Health experts say you shouldn’t expect weight loss to happen as quickly as it did when you were younger. For one thing, energy expenditure declines after age 60 , meaning you can gain weight simply by eating the same amount you always have. Put another way, we typically need fewer calories as we get older. Exactly how many calories you need depends on your age, gender, and physical activity level.
If you don’t want to monitor your caloric intake but you’re trying to lose weight, another option is to limit your portion sizes, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge . To help you do this, one easy strategy , according to Cornell University, is to use smaller plates to make your portions look bigger, so you’ll be less tempted to add more food to your plate.
Exercise Regularly for Benefits Beyond Weight Loss
Remember, exercise doesn’t just help you lose weight, it also helps you keep it off.
To avoid muscle aches and pains, you can start small, like taking a walk in your neighborhood. Each week, increase the walk length. If you have a joint condition like arthritis, you may want to choose low-impact activities to avoid over-stressing bones and joints, says the National Institute on Aging .
If you do experience an exercise-related injury, Medicare can can cover all or part of your doctor visit after your deductible. If your aches and pains require a chiropractor, Original Medicare Part B may cover 80% of your visit. The remaining 20% may be covered by Medicare Supplement Plan G.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The above is meant to be strictly educational and not intended to provide medical advice or solicit the sales of an insurance product or service of any kind.