July 13, 2024

Getting Better (and More Fit) with Age by Nicki Anderson

As we age, our ability to burn the same amount of calories we did when we were 20 years old changes. The reason is our organs are not as efficient, our muscle mass diminishes and of course hormones play a role in body composition. All of these factors combined can result in weight gain and slowed or inability to lose body fat. Both of these are top health concerns for women according to the experts.

Here are three keys to managing weight gain:
Lift heavy weights. Not enough women are lifting weights, really lifting weights. Working with an appropriate amount of weight (1-5# weights are typically not enough) is essential to build healthy muscle mass. Walking is a wonderful activity and while it does burn calories, the outcome on body composition is different than that of strength training. There is also research showing that strength training plays a role in minimizing hot flashes.

Skip packaged foods. As for food, though many women diet to lose weight, the mistake they make is not paying attention to the quality of foods they consume. Firstly, focusing more on a plant based diet helps to regulate hormones and reduce symptoms of menopause. Secondly, eliminating any and all junk food that is boxed or processed is a good choice. Make your last meal of the evening your lightest meal. Many women who follow these guidelines for their nutrition notice a dramatic difference in weight and positive difference in how they feel.


Drop stress. Days are hectic, responsibilities are overwhelming and often the high stress levels are constant. Reduce stress with regular restorative exercise. Specifically check out your local yoga, tai chi or stretching class. Learning the art of meditation also helps to reduce stress levels.

Gaining weight in addition to the difficulty or slowed ability to lose weight makes for a tough duo. Granted, the challenges of menopause can play havoc with your body, but doing a quality check of your lifestyle factors will jump start your body’s fat burning capacity.

To jump start weight loss, evaluate your wellness program on a monthly (at a minimum) basis.

Examine your exercise program by asking three key questions:

Question 1: Are your workouts challenging?
Question 2: Do you finish each exercise session and know that you tried hard? Too often people get comfortable with their exercise and do the same thing day in and day out rarely challenging themselves. You’ve got to work out at a higher intensity and make your exercise time count.
Question 3: are you using weights that are challenging or simply going through the motions?

Next, evaluate food intake. Of course food plays a role in the weight loss equation and the most common mistake women make are eating the wrong foods and only paying attention to calories. It’s important to pay attention the types of foods you’re eating. Stay away from sugar (very common for women to over eat) and avoid any fried and processed foods. Also, just because something is healthy doesn’t mean you shouldn’t monitor portions. Portion sizes are often the number one weight loss blunder women make. Use a smaller plate, stick to one serving and always precede a meal with a tall glass of water.

Finally, remember body shape also changes as we age. The human body is made up of fat, lean tissue (muscles and organs), bones, water, and other substances. As we age, the amount of fat, lean tissue, muscle and organs get redistributed. For example, fat tissue tends to be more prevalent around the center of the body, abdominal organs and if you’re inactive, body fat may increase by as much as 30%. It’s also natural as you age to become shorter. Change in height is often related to aging changes in the bones, muscles, and joints. People typically lose about a half-inch every 10 years beginning around 40 years old. Once you reach 70, even more height may be lost each subsequent year. Bottom line, you may lose 1 to 3 inches in height as you age which will obviously redistribute your weight. In addition to the natural changes in the body, medication can also have an effect on the body shape.

Stick to the basics of physiology and biology to better manage the weight gain and slowed ability to lose body fat that may come with age. That means stick with proper exercise and quality nutrition! Be proactive about your wellness plan by evaluating your intensity and performing a quality check of your program in general. Be consistent and you’ll find it easy to become more fit with age!

Nicki Anderson
Columnist, Business Owner, and NASM Certified Trainer with over 25 years in the Health and Fitness Industry. She can be contacted at nicki@realityfitness.com or www.realityfitness.com.

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