Weight lifting is considered the best exercise for the over 50s

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Danni Twomey, 64, does a biceps curl on Sunday in his living room in Minot. Twomey says she’s been lifting weights since she was 13 and is still determined to stay in shape. Andrée Kehn/Sun Journal

Some of us give up the foods we love, like pasta, cheese, and butter. Some of us don’t change our diets as we get older and the weight accumulates.

But it is possible to maintain a healthy weight after 50 without living on nuts and berries.

You just need to pump it.

Strength training, also known as weightlifting, can boost your metabolism, add muscle mass, and burn those pesky calories.

The AARP publication Healthy Living offered this and other advice in its June issue.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we lose 10% of our muscle mass by age 50. And that means we burn fewer calories if we don’t change our diet and exercise routines.

“Muscle is more metabolically active — it burns more calories than fat,” according to Dr. William Yancy Jr., director of the Duke Lifestyle and Weight Management Center in Durham, North Carolina.

“So having a higher muscle-to-fat ratio means you burn more energy — just by sitting,” he said in the Healthy Living article. “To build that muscle, you have to exercise, and that also burns calories.”

We should associate exercise with high quality protein such as eggs and low fat meats. A study in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating equal amounts of protein at all three meals can increase muscle strength.

And we should drink plenty of water. According to the report, the process of bringing liquid to body temperature requires energy that burns calories.

“Fluid intake is also important for the complex cycle of converting protein and carbohydrates into usable energy,” according to Dr. Holly Lofton, director of the NYU Langone Medical Weight Management Program in New York City.

Retired dietitian and health educator Eileen Liddy of Farmington offered her this advice.

“I would emphasize a combination of cardiovascular training and strength training for the best results,” she said in an email interview.

As for increasing protein intake, she said it was OK as long as it didn’t increase calories. So decrease other calories if you eat more protein.

Another hurdle for us seniors – women and men – is falling hormone levels.

“The lower estrogen in women can lead to a shift in fat deposition around the hips to more around the abdomen,” Yancy said. “This can lead to insulin resistance, which promotes weight gain and makes it difficult to lose weight.”

In men, a decrease in testosterone leads to loss of muscle, which slows metabolism, he said.

The best way to manage this is to reduce our intake of refined sugars and starches, eat more protein and whole foods, and exercise regularly.

But we don’t have to sweat all the time. Walking is good cardio exercise and can be done outdoors or indoors.

Liddy said she was unaware of the hormones that regulate appetite and satiety, “but I’ll say it again: don’t add foods without removing others to maintain the same calories.”

She recommends keeping track of body mass index, which calculates weight and height to measure our body fat.

A BMI over 30 is not good, Liddy said. We can find out our BMI by asking our medical providers to calculate it. If you don’t have a medical provider and you have internet access, you can go to Calculate your BMI — Standard BMI Calculator (nih.gov).

If you don’t have internet access, you or a friend or relative can go to your local library and use the computer there, she suggested.

“Ask the librarian for help, if needed,” Liddy said. “Librarians love helping people do research.”

Sleep deprivation can also affect weight. A study in BMJ Open Sports and Exercise Medicine found that sleep-deprived participants ate more — and opted for high-calorie meals.

The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same times each day, if possible. Bedtime rituals, including turning off devices, changing into your pajamas, and brushing your teeth an hour before sleep, can help signal the body and mind to slow down.

Plus, all that cardio and strength training should help us sleep like babies.


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