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Maintaining Weight as We Age Means More Exercise

Senior woman and her caregiver go for a walk
Companionship is a vital component of staying active. So encourage a friend to exercise with you or join a class.

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October 11, 2011

Staying active is vital to healthy aging, and research reveals that remaining active can become more difficult as we age. That’s why it is so important to continue to be diligent about an exercise program. And companionship is a vital component of staying on the move.

Q. I’ve exercised most of my adult years and now, at 79, enjoy good health. I’ve been trying to lose a little extra weight that I gained over the holidays, but I’ve been having a terrible time. Is this my imagination or am I doing something wrong?

Unfortunately, no. You are not imagining your weight struggles. A study of more than 34,000 healthy women – half of whom were 55 or older – found that it takes these women on a usual diet about 60 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity just to maintain a normal weight.

The study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also found physical activity was associated with less weight gain over 13 years only among women of normal weight. “These data suggest that the 2008 federal recommendation for 150 minutes per week, while clearly sufficient to lower the risks of chronic diseases, is insufficient for weight-gain prevention absent caloric restriction,” according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For women consuming a usual diet, physical activity was associated with less weight gain only among women whose Body Mass Index was lower than 25. “Because the average U.S. adult gains weight with age, developing ways to prevent unhealthful weight gain would help them avoid having to lose weight and then trying to maintain that loss. Compared with the vast body of research on the treatment of overweight and obese individuals, little research exists on preventing weight gain,” the authors write.

What is clear is the fact that staying active is vital to healthy aging. Research also reveals that remaining active can become more difficult, which is why it is so important that you continue to be diligent about your exercise program. A recent national survey conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care® network found that 74 percent of seniors 65 and older say that staying physically active is a major challenge.

Companionship is a vital component of staying active. So encourage a friend to exercise with you or join a class. Or consider a CAREGiverSM from the local Home Instead Senior Care office. Many enjoy hobbies and activities with their clients. In addition, go to GetMomMoving.com to learn more about how to stay fit and active.

For more about the study, log on to http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/303/12/1173.short.

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