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Middle Age, Metabolism & Weight Control

As I was lying on the ground the other day, having slipped on the ice while walking our beloved pet, I found myself once again pondering this whole “new middle age” concept. I was looking at the sky wondering “if I were in my 30’s, would I really be thinking about calling my husband and asking him to pick me up (literally) because my back hurt? Or would I simply get my 30+ year old body up and keep walking?”

What I finally did was pick up my 50+ year old body and kept walking, albeit at a more sedate pace.

This whole idea of my 50’s being more like being in my 30’s intrigues me. In a number of ways, many of us 50+ folks are healthier that than our parents were at this stage in their lives. Many of us have better access to health care – so medically we can take better care of ourselves. The concept of “personal trainer,” along with belonging to a fitness center, was unheard of twenty-five years ago. Making time for a daily walk wasn’t even on the agenda for many people.

We are lucky, though, because we are able to include these benefits into our lives, allowing us to be a much healthier generation.

However, some things haven’t changed. As we age, our metabolism still slows down, which is why we tend to gain weight as we age. Metabolism refers to the rate at which the body burns calories. There are many factors affecting what is called our “metabolic rate,” including height (tall people burn more calories than short folks), fasting (which is why skipping meals is not a good way to lose weight – your metabolism slows down) and temperature. In colder temperatures, our bodies need to burn more calories to stay warm. I suppose one way to lose weight would be to run around naked in the cold. However, I’m not sure how long this “diet” would last before your neighbors called the police.

The point is that we cannot control many of the factors affecting our metabolic rate, including age (young, middle or old). The light at the end of the tunnel, though, is activity. When you are active, you’re body can build muscle. Muscle is referred to as a more metabolically active tissue because it takes more calories to maintain muscle than to maintain fat. Fat is a lazy tissue; it can get along without any help on our part. But muscle? There’s a different story. Muscles use more calories to do their job (you probably didn’t realize how many muscles are involved in going up and down stairs, did you?). So the more muscle you build, the more calories your body uses. And that’s why, as we age, we need to stay active. We need to build our muscles and maintain them to keep weight off. Walking is one important activity I rely on to keep my metabolism up. Someone else may like running, or biking. Others enjoy lifting weights. As long as you have worked with an experienced trainer, making sure you don’t injure yourself, increased muscle mass is definitely a benefit of activity. Activity keeps your metabolic rate high, increasing the calories you burn, and helping prevent that fat tissue from growing.

So whether you are lying on the ice wondering how to get up, or stuck in front of a computer wondering if you’ll ever move again, think about staying active. It’s activity that will make moving around (and preventing weight gain) a lot easier – at any age.

Become At Peace with Food: Stop Dieting and Lose Weight

NOTE: Information in this site should not replace any medical advice you have
received from your primary care doctor or other medical professionals.