In recent times, aging populations have become far overweight. A plump look may be an asset for the likes of jolly Santa Claus; but, for those who want to live past 65, obesity is not a practical option. Research has found that overweight seniors are at a greater risk of death than those who maintain a healthy weight.
So how do many seniors these days actually gain weight? One reason is that as we age, we don’t put the brakes on our eating habits. A woman in her fifties who consumes a certain number of calories per day and who continues that same caloric intake into her sixties will surely gain weight as she continues to age.
Doctors conclude that muscles, where the energy from food sources is burned up, become naturally worn with age. One UCLA geriatrician, Jonathan Wanagat, noted about the process that “muscles literally shrink as we age”. As we climb in years, those muscle cells experience normal wear and tear, thereby resulting in a less efficient metabolism to burn the energy from our intake of food. Weight gain inevitably results.
Seniors can approach their daily habits in new ways to combat the effects of unhealthy weight gain. There are two basic but significant paths to maintaining a healthy weight: exercise and proper nutrition. If an elderly individual requires any level of assistance with either exercise or nutrition, professional caregivers who specialize in assisting seniors in daily activities are available to compassionately step in and lend a hand.
Physical Activity Reaps Robust Benefits
Physical activity can be an incredible source of enjoyment while offering a multitude of health benefits. Healthy weight maintenance is one outcome of a regular exercise plan. Adding variety to one’s physical activities spurs inspiration and interest—and thereby a commitment to continuity. Plus, it is advantageous to know that exercise can be as mild as strolling along an outdoor path or as intense as weight lifting.
Many seniors enjoy commonplace physical activities, including singles tennis, swimming laps, brisk walking or even dancing. Seniors who are able and willing should get started on a regular exercise program that best fits their needs and interests. If needed, consulting a caregiver can be the first step in determining what works best for each individual’s physical capabilities.
Those who are able to walk with relative ease will find that taking long walks is an effective and enjoyable way to build muscle mass, which in turn helps burn extra calories. Caregivers can accompany seniors on walks to ensure safety or offer transportation to a local exercise facility or class.
Weight lifting is probably the most intense form of exercise for seniors. Performing repetitions of moderate weights helps to increase muscle cell mass, thereby enabling the body’s metabolism to function better. Geriatricians like Wanagat consider that weight lifting for seniors—even those in their eighties—“offers low risk and great benefit”. Older populations who engage in weight lifting exercises are best off minimizing injury and maximizing the health benefits by carefully selecting an appropriate weight lifting regime. A consultation with a healthcare provider is also important before picking up that first set of weights.
Less strenuous than weight lifting is yoga. Different poses work better for an older body. Gail Greendale, a geriatrician who also works at UCLA, has been working to define the best yoga poses for the elderly to practice. Yoga and other forms of exercise are beneficial in helping to control weight gain and prevent its unhealthy toll on the body in the long run.
Exercise for seniors can take on a multitude of forms, depending on skill level and physical fitness. Such variations include those as simple as climbing the stairs on a regular basis to more advanced exercises like climbing hills. Enjoying physical activity is one sure way to continue engaging in the necessary exercise needed to sustain a healthy weight.
Nutritious Eating Contributes to Health
As people age, they require less calories to sustain them in daily life. Recognizing this fact is a necessary first step for every aging individual.
Fixing nutritious meals at home is ideal. However, for those who experience mobility issues, darting off to the grocery store every week may be more of a hassle than a practical reality.
Instead, several online shopping centers offer to deliver produce fresh from local grocery stores for a charge. Frequent shopping online may at times be too costly for a senior’s budget. In these instances, a caregiver can offer transportation to a grocery store each week and help pick out the most nutritious foods.
When it comes to choosing healthy foods, the National Institute on Aging recommends several foods to stave off hunger and stay satisfied. These include proteins, like chicken. Bananas and peanuts are just a few examples of snacks that are dense with important nutrients.
If seniors find that cooking for one is more of a bother than a benefit, consider enlisting the help of a caregiver to aid in food preparation. Meals can be made fresh and served right away. In addition, meals can be packed in single servings, frozen and reheated for later consumption.
The NIA also offers a handy chart for calculating the right caloric intake for both men and women over the age of fifty. Women, for instance, who are moderately active, need to consume on average 1,800 calories a day to maintain their current weight. Men, on the other hand, who engage in an active lifestyle, require 2,400-2,800 calories to achieve a steady weight. Gender aside, the more active those over fifty tend to be, the more calories they need to consume each day to remain at a stable weight.
When meal preparation becomes an almost impossible task for the elderly to achieve alone, a trusted caregiver is essential. Professional caregiving services like Assisting Hands Schaumburg offer numerous essential tasks, including meal preparation, to make daily life simpler for those in need of assistance. Services from caregivers like these include grocery shopping, healthy meal preparation that considers the individual’s dietary needs and restrictions, meal service, eating assistance and cleanup.
Personal assistance for seniors, at times, may require more than help with meals. In these instances, in-home senior care, personal assistance and non-medical health care are available from experts who offer compassionate services to the elderly. Assisting Hands Schaumburg is one such local caregiving service that takes care of your loved one’s everyday needs.