As you grow older, if you continue eating the same types and amounts of food but do not become more active, you will probably gain weight. That’s because your metabolism (how your body gets energy from food) can slow with age, and your body composition (amount of fat and muscle) may be different from when you were younger.
The energy your body gets from the nutrients in the food you eat is measured as calories. As a rule of thumb, the more calories you eat, the more active you have to be to maintain your weight. Likewise, the reverse is also true—the more active you are, the more calories you need. As you age, your body might need less food for energy, but it still needs the same amount of nutrients.
Many things can affect your weight, including genetics, age, gender, lifestyle, family habits and culture, sleep, and even where you live and work. Some of these factors can make it hard to lose weight or keep weight off.
But being active and choosing healthy foods has health benefits for everyone—no matter your age or weight. It’s important to choose nutrient-dense foods and be active at least 150 minutes per week.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. You don’t have to do that all at once—break it up over the whole week, however you like. If you can’t do this much activity right away, try to be as physically active as you can. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all.
The benefits of exercise aren’t just about weight. Regular exercise can make it easier for you to do daily activities, participate in outings, drive, keep up with grandchildren, avoid falls, and stay independent.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer. Think about the kinds of physical activities that you enjoy—for example, walking, running, bicycling, gardening, housecleaning, swimming, or dancing. Try to make time to do what you enjoy on most days of the week. And then increase how long you do it,or add another fun activity.
Learn more about exercise and physical activity from NIA’s Go4Life, which offers a variety of free, evidence-based resources for older adults in one convenient spot.
For More Information on Maintaining a Healthy Weight
President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition
U.S. Department of Agriculture
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute