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The telegraph

Why you struggle to lose weight in your 50s and what to do about it

As quarantine sets in, maintaining a healthy weight often becomes more difficult. Things that used to work, like reducing wine or sugar, don’t seem to work anymore either. Even skinny Samantha Cameron, now 50, has apparently been affected. In my 30s and early 40s, staying in shape was easy, she said over the weekend, “but then I was 43, I just put three quarters of stone. Suddenly you don’t fit any of your stuff and I got really blown up. At first she tried following the 5: 2 diet – eating normally five days a week, then having only 500 calories on the other two – but “I just couldn’t do it, I literally couldn’t speak at night. , I had to go to bed at 7pm. She recently found a solution: the 5: 2 principles, but with 800 calories on ‘fast’ days, and says she ‘loves it’ and ‘the bloating is gone.’ In addition to three weekly workouts She says it helped her keep her balance: her goal is to “hit your 50s in almost as good shape as your 40s.” If you’re struggling to maintain your weight and fitness after 50, here’s why – and how to fix it: Muscle mass Every decade after the age of 30 we lose an average of 3-8% of our muscle mass. At first it may not be noticeable, but by 50 or so 60 years old will make a huge difference. This is bad news if you want to lose weight, because muscle burns on average three times as many calories as fat per day, even at rest. What to do: Incorporate training resistance to your weekly routine to reduce muscle loss. NHS recommends two strength training sessions per week, which could include activities as varied as gardening or lifting weights. Don’t underestimate the good exercise can do: a 2018 study shows that regular athletes over 55 maintain significantly more muscle mass than people who are inactive. Stay active In England, half of 16-24 year olds get the recommended amount of weekly exercise, but only one in 10 people aged 65 to 74 do. If injuries have accumulated and your work and social life are less busy than before, you may be leading a more sedentary life than you think. The role of exercise in weight loss is the subject of much debate, but it can be crucial in maintaining your weight. A famous 2016 study followed the participants of the American weight loss competition The Biggest Loser during and after the shoot, and found that most had gained a lot of weight after the cameras stopped rolling due to an appetite. higher and slower metabolism. However, a follow-up study in 2017 found that the competitors who kept the most weight were those who remained committed to a fitness regimen. This was especially interesting given that more exercise didn’t equal more weight loss during the show, as those who lost the most focused on diet rather than training. What to do: Try to stick to the NHS exercise guidelines, which recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a mixture of the two. Also, be sure to do something that is right for your body. As you age, high impact workouts like running can put unwanted stress on your joints, so consider low impact options like swimming or cycling. Hormones Menopause changes where fat is stored on the body. Higher estrogen levels during fertile years lead to fat storage on your legs, hips, and butt, but after estrogen drops fat can move to your midpoint, even if you keep it exactly. the same weight. This can be a problem, as the fat around your trunk is more likely to contribute to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems than the fat on your hips and legs. Men are also affected by hormonal changes as they age: after the age of 40, they lose around 1% of their testosterone per year. This is important for weight because testosterone is related to how much muscle you have and where you store fat. What to do: For women, several studies suggest that HRT may help stop the movement of fat from your lower half to your midpoint during menopause. An Italian study followed two groups of postmenopausal women of equal weight for a year, putting half of them on HRT, the rest being hormone-free. By the end of the year, the HRT group remained almost the same weight, and hadn’t put any extra fat around their mids or arms. In the untreated group, things were different: They had gained three and a half pounds and had increased the amount of fat around their waist and arms. HRT is not for everyone, so be sure to consider your options and discuss them with your doctor first. In men, hormones are linked to a variety of lifestyle factors, including body fat and waist circumference, which can increase the amount of estrogen in your body. Staying active is also vital for male hormones: a 2018 study found that regular cyclists aged 55 to 74 kept their testosterone levels elevated compared to inactive men. Your sleep is also a partial predictor of your testosterone levels: most of the hormone is released while we are sleepy, so if you don’t spend enough hours in bed, your body is less likely to increase its reserves. . Getting enough sleep is also essential for maintaining your weight for other reasons: Not getting enough is proven to push you towards sugary foods, and muscle growth largely occurs while we rest at night. . No More Stress For many, juggling childcare and parenting with a job can mean that life after 50 requires dealing with a tremendous amount of stress. Even if you eat exactly the way you did before, stress can lead to weight gain. In 2015, American researchers found that after eating a large meal, women who reported more stress the day before burned 104 calories less than women who were not stressed. Stressed women also had higher insulin levels, which is linked to fat gain. It might not sound significant, but burning 100 fewer calories per day could result in 10 lbs of fat loss over a year. What to do: Reducing stress is often one of the most difficult lifestyle changes to make because you may have little control over issues at work or at home. However, you can change the way you react, which can reduce your stress level even without anything changing in your external environment. Exercise is an incredibly effective way to lower cortisol levels, as well as burn calories, which could have a double effect on your weight. There’s also strong evidence that just slowing down your breathing can dramatically reduce stress in both the short and long term, while providing a range of other benefits like better sleep. “Slow” counts as less than 10 breaths per minute, and six breaths is even better. The NHS recommends inhaling up to a count of five and then exhaling for the same amount of time.

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