How to Lose Weight in Your 50s and 60s

Senior couple in kayak smiling, close-up (focus on woman)

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Your 50s and 60s are a golden time of life. You are wiser, more confident, and feel more at peace with yourself. It’s also an age that greatly influences your future health. And while aging does impact every cell in your body—including your skin, bones, muscles, and weight—getting older isn’t linear or even consistent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is also easy to fixate on these physical changes you see now that you are in your 50s and 60s. But, it is important to recognize that nothing is set in stone.

Even though weight management is more challenging as you age, getting physically active, eating a balanced diet, and living a healthier lifestyle makes managing your weight a lot easier. Read on to learn why your weight changes as you age and what you can do about it.

Why Your Weight Changes as You Age

There are many reasons your weight changes as you get older. Declining hormones, a decrease in muscle mass, change in activity level, and chronic health problems are some of the factors that affect your weight. Let's examine why each of these things impact your weight as you age.

Hormones

A decrease in sex hormone production—estrogen and testosterone—is a natural part of the aging process. Though these hormones play a major role in reproductive health, they also influence your body composition.

Testosterone is an anabolic sex hormone your body uses to make muscle. When your body stops producing an adequate amount of testosterone, you lose muscle mass. This muscle loss then lowers your metabolism, or the number of calories you need to maintain your weight.

Your hormonal changes also influence where your body stores fat. As you get older, you may notice your waist size increasing. This is because changes in estrogen and testosterone levels influence where your body stores fat, causing you to accumulate more fat around your belly.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Inactivity is also a common cause of age-related weight changes. About 28% of adults in the U.S. over age 50 live a sedentary lifestyle. This means they do not engage in any form of physical activity outside of their usual daily routine. 

But, exercise and regular physical activity is an integral part of the weight maintenance equation. If you are not physically active, then you might have a hard time maintaining your weight.

Decrease in Muscle Mass and Metabolism

People start losing muscle mass around age 30—years before the decline in sex hormone production. This decrease in muscle mass is due to age-related cellular changes.

What's more, living a sedentary lifestyle increases your rate of muscle loss. After age 30, you lose 3% of your muscle mass every 10 years if you remain inactive.

A sedentary lifestyle and loss of muscle also lower your metabolism. This means you need to eat fewer calories to maintain your weight, which is why you may be eating the same foods but still gaining weight.

Chronic Health Conditions

Aging also affects your health, increasing your risk of developing chronic diseases. Many adults with chronic health conditions also lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Many avoid physical activity because of their illness.  For some, exercise may cause pain so they avoid doing too much. For others, they may not know what type of physical activity is safe with their health condition, so they limit their activity.

The best option is to discuss your activity options with a healthcare provider so that you can continue to stay active in spite of your illness.

How to Address Changes in Weight

Although you cannot stop the aging process, there are things you can do to slow down the age-related changes that affect your body, including your weight. In fact, taking steps to address the changes in weight that come with middle age improves your quality of life now and as you get older.

How you manage your weight in your 50s or 60s isn't that much different than how you managed your weight when you were your younger. It all comes down to lifestyle choices.

To address the weight changes that occur with age, you need to eat a balanced diet, engage in regular physical activity, and create healthy lifestyle habits that improve sleep and stress. It’s also important to properly manage underlying health conditions. Here are some tips for addressing changes in weight during your 50s and 60s.

Add More Nutrient Dense Foods

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, older adults generally have lower calorie needs, but similar or even increased nutrient needs compared to younger adults. This is often due to less physical activity, changes in metabolism, or age-related bone and muscle loss.

Therefore, you need to pack in more vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients into fewer calories. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein are nutrient-dense foods that provide the nutrients you need without a lot of calories. 

Focus on making sustainable changes to your diet that can help you manage your weight. Keep these changes simple and reasonable so they easily flow into your daily routine and can be maintained.

Increase Your Daily Protein

Muscle loss is an unfortunate part of the aging process. But upping your daily protein take may help prevent or slow down some of this muscle loss.

Because your protein needs increase with age, you should aim for 1.2 grams to 1.4 grams of protein a day. For example, a 150-pound person (68 kilograms) needs 82 grams to 95 grams of protein a day. 

Be Mindful of Calories

Calories count when it comes to weight management. And, you may need fewer calories now than you did 10 years ago.

Including more nutrient-dense, low-calorie foods can help you keep calories in check. Using small plates and bowls also can help you manage portion sizes. You might even consider using a food diary app to track calories initially until you get used to what your body requires.

Boost Your Activity

Life is busy, making it hard to find the time to fit in a workout. But exercise is essential for weight management. No matter how long it has been since you last visited the gym, it is never too late to start. In fact, finding time for more activity is the best thing you can do for your weight and your health no matter where you are on the fitness scale.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days a week and strength training 2 days a week. Any form of physical activity is good, but a varied workout program may help you manage those age-related hormonal changes that affect muscle mass, weight, and metabolism—and beat boredom.

Physical Activities to Try

  • Aerobic activity: Regular aerobic exercise like walking, biking, or swimming benefits your overall health and makes it easier for you to manage your weight.
  • Strength training: Strength training prevents muscle loss, boosts bone health, and improves functional movement (your body’s biomechanics).
  • Stretching exercises: Stretching exercises lengthen your muscles, improving muscle flexibility. 
  • Balance exercises: Balance exercises keep your body strong, improve stability, and reduce your risk of falls.

Manage Health Conditions

The changes that occur in your body as you get older increase your risk of developing chronic health conditions like arthritis and diabetes. You cannot reverse all chronic diseases, but you can take steps to prevent or delay health complications.

Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to discuss your health issues and what you can do to take back control. In addition to blood work and a number of other routine tests, they may use your body mass index (BMI) as a marker for assessing your health and your risk of chronic disease. BMI is a simple mathematical equation that compares your weight to your height, indirectly assessing body fat.

Regardless of your healthcare issues or BMI, most healthcare providers recommend eating a balanced diet and getting regular physical activity to help you better manage your health condition.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

Other Lifestyle Changes to Consider

Sleep, stress, and eating habits are also factors to consider when it comes to weight management in your 50s and 60s. Here is how to make changes in these areas as well.

Sleep

You may find it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep as you get older. In fact, you may only get 6 to 7 hours of sleep a night. Keep in mind when you sleep less, you may eat more throughout the day due to an increase in ghrelin, the hunger hormone.

Exercise, going to bed at the same time every night, and not napping during the day may help you get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep you need for health and weight management.

Stress

Chronic stress affects your health and your weight. Finding healthy ways to manage your stress can make it easier for you to maintain your weight.

Regular exercise and getting an adequate amount of sleep are good places to start. You can also try meditation, mindfulness, or breathing exercises to help you relax and reduce stress.

Practice Mindful Eating

Life is busy, which is why you may pair eating with other activities. But mindless eating may lead to overeating. Make eating its own activity.

Eat slowly and mindfully, paying attention to the cues your body sends you that let you know you’re full.  Practicing mindful eating puts you in tune with your body and appetite.

A Word From Verywell

You can expect many changes when you reach your 50s and 60s, including changes in your weight as well as your ability to stay at your goal weight. But you don’t have to sit back and let things happen. 

Taking a proactive approach to your health now, benefits your health in the future. But instead of only focusing on your weight, focus on your health. This includes making more nutritious food choices, adding more physical activity, and finding healthy outlets for your stress benefits your health and your weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do people gain weight as they age?

    People gain weight as they age because of a decrease in muscle mass, decrease in physical activity, and changing hormone levels. These factors lower your body’s metabolism, so you need to eat less to maintain your weight. That’s why you gain weight even though you’re eating the same foods.

  • How do you increase metabolism as you age?

    Regular physical activity and strength training can increase your metabolism as you get older. A sedentary lifestyle is the main driver behind the slowdown in metabolism that occurs with age. Both increasing physical activity and adding strength training may prevent the decline in your metabolism and improve muscle mass, giving your metabolism a tiny boost.

  • How do your nutrition needs change as you age?

    In general, your calorie needs decrease as you get older while your nutrient needs stay the same or increase,. This means you need to eat more nutrient-rich foods to get all the nutrition your body needs without eating too many calories.

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19 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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