If you’re struggling to get rid of excess body fat in your later years, you’re not alone. In the U.S., 73 percent of all women who are overweight or obese are between the ages of 60 and 64. Losing weight when you’re older can feel increasingly difficult, due to age-related muscle loss, hormonal changes, and a slowing metabolism. And if you suffer from arthritis or another illness that makes it hard to enjoy physical activity, you can become more sedentary overtime. This can further worsen your symptoms and cause even more weight gain.
So, does this mean you should throw in the towel? Losing weight gets effectively harder and harder to do as you age, right? As it turns out, the opposite may be true. A recent study published in Clinical Endocrinology suggests that age is not the barrier we think it is when it comes to weight loss. In fact, those who are over 60 can lose just as much weight, if not more, than younger people.
Conducted at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) in the UK, the research assessed how age can affect the ability to lose weight. Investigators analyzed 242 randomly-selected patient records from their hospital-based obesity service, the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (WISDEM). The records came from patients who had attended the service between 2005 and 2016. The program provided dietary, medical, and psychological support. None of the selected participants had weight-reduction surgeries.
The age range of the selected patients was 18 to 78 years old, and the majority of patients identified as female. The patient records were split into two groups: those who were below 60 years old, and those who were 60 to 78 years old. Adults in both groups participated in the intervention service for anywhere from 1 to 143 months, but the average length of time was a little over three years. In addition, 43.8 percent of the patients were diagnosed with diabetes, and the overwhelming majority of those patients had type 2 diabetes.
Each patient’s body weight was measured at the beginning of the program and at the end. Researchers then calculated the percentage reduction in body weight across both groups. On average, patients between 18 and 60 years old lost 6.9 percent bodyweight, while patients over 60 lost 7.3 percent. In other words, the older adults lost slightly more weight than the younger adults.
While the lifestyle interventions varied from patient to patient depending on their specific needs, the researchers argued that there were no statistical differences between the two groups beyond their ages. Each patient received the same level of care. Interestingly, the weight management service had a strong focus on mental health for all patients, suggesting that the same mental barriers affect every age group.
Why might so many people think that older adults can’t lose weight as easily as younger adults? According to researchers, many people believe that older adults simply lack the motivation and the ability. They may think that frailty, along with mental and physical impairments, make it too difficult for people over 60 to comply with structured weight loss programs.
However, we think it’s time to prove them wrong! With the methods of the hospital-based service in mind, it might be time to ditch that trendy weight loss program you saw on TV. Instead, focus on gradual lifestyle changes. Changing up every aspect of your routine all at once might feel impossible after a few days, and cause you to bounce right back to your old habits.
In addition, your mental health is key. The UHCW embraces a positive approach to weight management focusing on mentality, which they call the Compassionate Approach to Living Mindfully for Prevention of Disease (CALM). This methodology is intended to empower you so that when road blocks come up, you can face them head on. In considering that approach, you may want to take some time to examine your thoughts on weight loss and the barriers you face. Just remember that one thing is for certain: Your age isn’t a barrier.