Metabolism and age
I don't think many will argue the fact that there has been, and continues to be, an obesity epidemic in western society. For the past couple of decades, there has been a steady increase in overweight and obese individuals. Sure, there is a wide range of excuses or factors that is certainly contributing to ballooning weights and waistlines, but there is one specific myth that we hear that I would like to discuss in this blog.
Gaining weight as we age is inevitable as our metabolisms slow down.
Yes, your metabolism will slow as you age. But it is far less than you may think. According to some studies, you are only going to see about a 5% decrease in metabolism every decade. I personally think that this becomes too much of a scapegoat for many. Sure, this is easy for me to say since I am young and haven't reached that point in my life yet, but at a time when I see many around my age (I am 29) gaining weight, I can't help but feel as though age doesn't really have a lot to do with it.
My own personal belief? I think lifestyle and comfort goes a long way to increasing weight. Let me explain.
As kids, I would say that most people were pretty active. Whether you participated in a club, group, or sports team, or maybe you were just active outside with friends during recess and after school activities. Between growing bodies and plenty of activity, children, for the most part, don't really have to stress about what they are eating or how much they are eating.
*Side note* - I am not saying unhealthy diets are good for kids, just saying that they seem to be less important when a child is active enough.
Even the trend of skinny active kids is certainly changing. We are seeing more and more children becoming overweight or obese, and even Type-II diabetes had to change its name. Did you know that it used to be called "adult-onset" diabetes?
Why are children becoming more and more obese/overweight? Well, frankly, it's because they are living their lives like adults. They are consuming more calories than they are burning. They don't get enough exercise. They aren't eating enough healthy foods. And quite frankly, they are treating themselves far too often.
This is what I meant earlier by saying that lifestyle and comfort go a long way to promoting increased weight and an unhealthy lifestyle. Adults and children alike have far more reasons or excuses than ever to sit in front of a screen rather than living an active lifestyle.
So back to adults and the apparent inevitability of gaining weight. Sure, your metabolism slows by about 5% per decade, but do you think that is to blame, or the vast overconsumption of calories based on your needs? Overweight individuals sit around too much, exercise too little, and therefore consume far more calories than is needed for a lifestyle so sedentary.
Here's what you can do to age well:
- First of all, resistance train. Resistance training is beneficial to men and women of all ages. I hate to keep harping about this, but holy crap, you are not going to get "huge" or "bulky" from resistance training...trust me...I try very hard at times to get "huge" and "bulky"....it isn't that easy. Instead, focus on resistance training as a means to improve your lean body mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even during those times of rest or relaxation.
Sure, muscle mass also declines with age, but that can be slowed down, even halted, by consistent resistance training. Maybe one big problem that occurs with aging folks is another self-fulfilling prophecy, much like the "age-related weight gain," is not that they lose muscle because they age, but they age because they lose muscle.
Ever thought about the fact that maybe you are gaining weight and your metabolism is slowing as you age because you simply aren't as active/revving your metabolism like you used to?
- Consume calories based on your needs! Believe it or not, but some people actually go to their doctors and are told that they need to gain weight. Maybe stress, or other lifestyle choices have caused them to lose some weight. So, their doctor tells them to eat more and put on some mass. Why isn't this more of a social norm to be able to tell someone to eat less?
As discussed already, our metabolisms slow with age. Only 5% per decade, which is negligible, in my opinion, but hang with me for a second. So if our metabolisms are slowing, why do we continue to eat just as much as we used to, if not more?
An active person needs more calories to maintain weight than an inactive person, plain and simple. If you aren't moving enough, don't eat as much. If you move a lot, you can eat more, but don't go crazy with the calories.
Finally, let me leave you with this thought.
I have 2 young kids at home. My oldest son will be 3 in 3 months. He is extremely active. To the point that my wife and I usually take turns taking him to the park or to other activities to keep him as active as possible. Kids have lots of energy and love to play. It certainly doesn't require a whole lot of enthusiasm to get him interested in going to the park or going outside to play. It is just easy for him to want to be active.
As we age, between a combination of aging and the structures of our society (school, work, driving, etc.), we become more sedentary. I will fully admit it, I am far less energetic and active now than when I was a kid. So I am not saying that it is going to be easy to force yourself to get active, but I am saying that it is worth it. The more you do, the easier it becomes, and more you start to feel like a kid again. Don't just blame your age on how much weight you are gaining or how lethargic you feel. Eat less and move more!