Exercise, diet must change with age to aid weight loss

Goal should be to preserve lean muscle mass, healthy bone density.

The approach to weight loss as well as the way one’s body should appear must change as an individual ages, said Paul Jennewine, MD, an internal medicine physician with Middletown Medical Group.

“Weight loss naturally gets harder as someone ages,” says Dr. Jennewine, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “Weight can become more difficult to manage, beginning as early as a person’s 20s, but it really becomes noticeable when someone gets into their 30s and beyond.”

Perhaps the biggest culprit in this change is a person’s hormones and their relationship with their metabolism. Women’s estrogen levels and men’s testosterone levels begin to drop as they age. This progressive hormonal loss coincides with how well their bodies metabolize energy.

“Men and women both find that what they used to be able to do and still avoid weight gain no longer applies to their life,” Dr. Jennewine says. “Suddenly they are starting to put on a few pounds and they aren’t doing anything different than in previous years.”

Every individual gains weight differently, however, there are similarities among those of the same sex. Women’s bodies tend to gain weight around the hips, bottom and thighs whereas men tend to see their weight gain around their mid-section or stomach. Weight gain may be the first thing that one notices as their body changes with age; however, there are other factors at work.

While the body is gaining a few extra pounds, it is also losing lean muscle mass, bone density, and elasticity. All three are instrumental in keeping a person healthy and in safeguarding them from age-related disease processes. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, lean muscle mass is often an underappreciated part of a person’s overall health. Healthy muscle mass plays an integral role in a person’s ability to metabolize proteins and to help keep vital organs — such as the heart, lungs, brain and skin — healthy.

Likewise, a person’s bones create a strong framework from which their body can continue to function. A person is placed at a higher risk of developing diseases such as osteoporosis once that framework becomes weakened, according to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

“Understanding these facts can help a person set new lifestyle goals that are more realistic to what their age requires in order to maintain a healthy body,” Dr. Jennewine says. “I have seen that people tend to do a better job of dealing with their weight or preventing certain health issues once they understand why it is happening in the first place.”

Dr. Jennewine says adults can play an active role in their weight by considering three simple steps:

Start with a realistic image. An ideal body weight and shape should not reflect the one you had when you were in high school. There are natural changes our bodies undergo with age. The image of a healthy adult should also change. Begin by consulting a body mass index (BMI) chart to determine what a healthy weight should be for your age and height.

Evaluate your diet. You can counteract the body’s natural tendency to lose lean muscle by changing your diet. You can help maintain some lean muscle (not always stop the loss) by increasing the amount of lean protein consumed and decreasing fat and carbohydrate intake.

Add weight training. Cardiovascular exercise such as running, walking and jogging are often what first comes to mind when we think of fitness. These exercises are important for maintaining cardiovascular and joint health, but the body needs more as it ages. Add weight training exercises to your routine to maintain lean muscle mass and to help strengthen your bones.

For more information on age and weight loss or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

Premier HealthNet is one of the largest groups of pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, and urgent care practices in Southwest Ohio. More than 150 physicians, physician assistants and advanced practice nurses are located at more than 60 centers throughout Greater Dayton and Northern Cincinnati, reaching communities as far north as Versailles, Ohio and as far south as West Chester, Ohio. Premier HealthNet is part of Premier Health, which includes Miami Valley Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital Dayton, Atrium Medical Center and Upper Valley Medical Center. For more information, visit http://www.premierhealthnet.com/news.

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