Everyone is at a higher risk of weight gain as they age. There appear to be a number of factors that come into play. Although research hasn’t fully answered all the questions, new studies have yielded some interesting findings. Following this research helps us understand the correlation between aging and weight gain, which helps people over 40 find more effective ways to lose weight. Groom and Style recently published some interesting and promising findings showing it’s still possible to lose weight with age. Here are some things to be aware of.
Muscles Tend to Shrink With Age
Muscle degeneration tends to accelerate with age. Research still hasn’t explained why, but this plays a large role in weight gain. As muscles shrink, our metabolism steadily declines, making weight gain almost inevitable. While research hasn’t found a clear causal relationship between muscle shrinkage and age, Cheryl Phillips, president of the American Geriatrics Society states that research is coming closer to finding an answer. “So, if you look at a woman who is 70 years old and compare her to what her body was like at 25 years of age, even though her weight may be exactly the same, she had more percentage of muscle in her body when she was 25 than she does when she’s 70.” Jonathan Wanagat, a geriatrician and medical research with the University of California at Los Angeles, says that a decline in stem cell and testosterone generation appears to play a role. “I think one of the ones that have become increasingly interesting and popular is the idea that the stem cells in the muscle are not able to respond to damage or to aging the way they did when we were younger. And if damaged muscle cells aren’t repaired, they sort of whittle away and die, he says. Decreases in growth hormone, testosterone and estrogen levels may also account for the loss of muscle fiber and the inability of tissue to replenish itself,” Wanagat told NPR. This indicates that therapies to boost stem cell and testosterone production can play a key role in weight loss for aging adults.
Reducing Activeness Creates a Vicious Cycle of Weight Gain
Recent studies from the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes show a clear relationship between lower activity levels and a decline in cell mitochondria. As people get older, they often become less active. This in turn causes a drop in the activity levels of their cells. As a result, metabolism tends to decline. Declining metabolism often leads to weight gain, which causes people to feel more fatigued. Reduced activeness also leads to fatigue, even if weight gain isn’t present. Over time, this causes metabolism to drop even further. This research shows that people can sever the weight gain cycle by trying to be as active as possible as they get older. Part of the reason people are less active is unavoidable. Wear and tear on their body and a natural decline in mitochondria plays a role. However, most of the decline in activeness appears to be psychological. People become more fixated on their careers with age, which can reduce activeness and lead to weight gain, since they tend to work sedentary jobs. They are also busier raising families and other adult responsibilities, so they have less time to dedicate to exercise. A lot of the problem could be avoided by forcing themselves to be more active. Wagnet states that numerous studies have shown that exercise continues to restore muscle mass for people well into their 80s, which slows or even reverses the progression of weight gain. “We aren’t sure exactly how exercise makes muscles stronger, but we know that when we measure the grip strength of the hands or feet, grip is strongest just after exercise, even among people in their 80s and 90s. So weightlifting at any age offers low risk and great benefit,” Wagnet explains.
Creating More Synchronized Body Rhythms is Key to Losing Weight
We are all stuck on a natural circadian rhythm, which is tied to normal daylight hours. Studies have shown that people that break this cycle tend to have lower insulin sensitivity, which forces their body to secrete more insulin to break down sugars. A study from the Exercise Metabolism Research Group for the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University shows that regulating your circadian rhythms better can play an important role. You can reduce weight gain by following a more consistent sleep pattern and going to sleep and waking up earlier.