A recent survey has shown that approximately 23% of the elderly in India are overweight while the percentage is higher in western countries. Being overweight makes management of many chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes etc difficult for the elderly people, which also results in many life threatening complications like heart attacks, stroke, uncontrolled diabetes etc. thus, maintaining a normal BMI is very essential for healthy aging but losing weight after 60 is also very tricky.
Losing weight when young is relatively easy but it becomes tricky once you hit the age bar of 60 and one has to be very careful as any rigorous form of weight loss may prove harmful. When you are old, a healthy lifestyle can help boost energy, protect the heart and manage symptoms of illness or pain along with your weight while regular exercise is also good for your mind, mood and memory.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Aman Khera, Co-Founder and Surgeon – Geriatric Care at Care4parents.in, pointed out that exercise and diet control have been the main forms of weight management systems however, the body structure and metabolism does not allow aggressive therapies. Some tips for a healthy diet are:
1. High protein and low calorie diet should be taken.
2. Drink plenty of fluids
3. Eat small portions of meals in short intervals.
4. Avoid red meat
5. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
He added that exercise not only helps in burning calories but also helps in building muscle mass hence, regular light exercises as per body capability should be done. Some of the exercises that can be done include:
1. Walking up to 45 minutes a day
2. Light Yoga under supervision
3. Indoor cycling
4. Light weight training
According to him, exercises to be avoided include:
2. Pull ups
4. Long distance cycling
5. Anything else that requires great body effort or produces stress on joints.
Dr Deepak Mittal, Founder of Divine Soul Yoga listed some simple yet effective Yoga asanas that should be adopted by the elderly. These include:
1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana): It helps strengthen legs and abs, improves flexibility, and enhances self-esteem.
2. Locust Posture (Shalabhasana): It tones the back and neck muscles, improves digestion, and increases flexibility.
3. Butterfly Pose (Badhakonasana): This asana helps keep digestion effortless and stretches the thighs and knees while reducing stiffness.
4. Chair Pose (Utkatasana): It improves the body’s metabolic activity, which helps lose weight quickly.
He suggested the diet tips mentioned below to be followed along with Yoga:
1. Instead of seasoning your foods with salt, use fresh herbs and spices
2. Drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated
3. Eat more whole grains, fish, veggies, fruits, beans, and low-fat or fat-free dairy
4. Limit empty calories, like sugars and foods with little or no nutritional value
5. Do not cut all fats from your diet; eliminate the saturated and trans fats
Dr G Prakash, Deputy- Chief Medical Officer at Jindal Naturecure Institute, highlighted, “As you age, your muscle mass declines. The secret to burning more calories is to maintain your muscle mass. Yoga, pranayama, breathing exercises and brisk walking can work for the elderly in losing weight without making them much tired and feel weak. Since elderly people often suffer from heart problems and bone-related problems, they should avoid weight lifting or heavy exercises.”
He added, “These exercises can be done at home in a safe environment. They are easy to follow, effective and can be done at any place or time. Yoga and pranayama can help in reducing stress and pain management. Some of the yoga asanas that are very effective for weight loss in the elderly are Trikonasana, Tadasana, Uttanasana and Shavasana. Before starting yoga, elderly people should do brisk walking as a warm-up. Weight loss exercises are only effective when they are paired with a healthy diet.”
Given below are some of the tips that he recommended should be followed by people above 60 for weight loss:
1. Eat more small meals and snacks and don’t fast for more than 3 hours.
2. Keep yourself hydrated. Have fruits and vegetables like cucumber, orange, watermelon and melon which are high in water content
3. The elderly need to increase their calcium and Vitamin D intake as they have weaker bones. Include milk, lentils, green leafy vegetables and oranges in the diet.
4. Avoid eating out as it is difficult to count calories and it will limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.
Whatever measures taken to lose weight should be done under strict medical or expert supervision. A healthy lifestyle and normal BMI will always help in healthy aging.