The older we get, the better care we have to take of ourselves – that’s the message drummed into us by everyone from doctors to TV personalities. But, while it’s well known that your risk for serious conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease increases as you age, it’s also a universally acknowledged fact that getting older goes hand in hand with putting on weight, slowing down and finding it harder to get energised and motivated.
Obviously, this isn’t the case for every person in middle age – especially if you’re someone who has always had an interest in exercise, healthy eating and fitness – but according to recent statistics, it does affect a worryingly large percentage of the population.
As reported by The Guardian here, eight out of 10 Brits aged between 40 and 60 are not taking good enough care of themselves. To be more specific, 87% of men and 79% of women in this age range have been found to weigh too much, drink too much or be too physically inactive.
Perhaps most concerning is the high percentage of middle-aged adults who are overweight or obese (77% of men and 63% of women). Being overweight or obese is a high risk factor for serious conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, bowel cancer and stroke. It’s often closely linked to an inactive lifestyle and drinking too much – but the experts also believe there may be some other factors at play.
Reasons for the Middle Age Health Crisis
In the past 20 years, obesity in adults has increased by 16%, which is something that flags it up as a general health crisis, not solely specific to older age categories. One of the worrying effects this has had is that it has warped the average person's ability to distinguish between a healthy and an unhealthy weight – a particular problem for parents with overweight children.
Another factor to consider is that more and more people work in jobs requiring them to sit in front of a computer screen all day; as detailed by the NHS here, a sedentary lifestyle is associated with all kinds of health risks.
Generally speaking, we also live in a fairly ageist society that often devalues or ignores people over a certain age. As a result, many older people who are looking to get fit may find it more difficult to start exercising than those from younger generations; gyms and fitness classes tend to be populated with young people, and this can be really alienating if you do feel you are "too old" and out of shape to be there.
How to Lose Weight and Get Healthy in Middle Age
Whatever age and weight you are, there is always a way to get fitter, healthier and happier. For most people, this will involve three simple things:
- Eating a healthier diet
- Starting to take more exercise
- Cutting down your alcohol intake
Many people will read those words and assume that means cutting out carbs, joining and gym and going teetotal. But in fact, getting healthier is often about making a series of small, manageable changes that can be easily adopted into your daily routine.
The first step is to take a look at what you eat and drink every day, and whether it largely adheres to the recommended guidance from the NHS. The second step is to start exercising a little more each day. This can mean taking the stairs instead of the escalator, getting off the bus or train one stop early and walking the rest of the way, and even standing up from your desk chair once every hour to stretch your legs.
From there, you can implement bigger changes, like taking up an exercise class; there are many tailored specifically towards older people. If you’re struggling to control your eating, consider signing up for a healthy diet programme or visiting a nutritionist.
If you find that these tactics aren’t effective, you can also talk to a doctor about getting a prescription for weight loss medication such as Orlistat or Saxenda. As part of a healthy lifestyle, this can be a very effective tool for gradual weight loss. Learn more by visiting The Online Clinic’s Weight Loss Tips page.