Managing your weight as you age

Planning for the future is just as important when you're 50 as it was when you were 18. To stay physically fit and in good health as you get older, it's smart to manage your weight now.

People's weight often creeps up on them as they grow older. One reason is that you may be burning fewer calories in older age, especially if you are not very physically active. If you want to prevent weight gain, you'll need to eat fewer calories and continue—or start—a regular exercise routine.

Find out your healthy weight

The first step toward maintaining a healthy weight in older age is to find out what a healthy weight is for you. There are two good ways to do this:

  • Ask your doctor about your body mass index (BMI). BMI uses your height and weight to calculate your body fat. Your doctor can measure your BMI to find out where your weight falls on a scale of normal, overweight or obese.
  • Measure your waist. A waist measurement of more than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men is unhealthy and puts you at risk for a number of health problems, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Why does weight matter?

Being overweight can have a variety of harmful health effects.

For example, being overweight or obese may increase your risk for:

  • Heart disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Bone and joint problems.

Managing your weight through the years

Keeping a healthy weight isn't a short-term project. To ensure that your weight stays in a healthy range in the years to come, you'll need to make the following healthy lifestyle choices a permanent part of your life:

Eat well. Although you may need fewer calories as you age, you still need to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Focus on foods that are rich in nutrients, such as:

  • A wide range of fruits and vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.
  • Fish, lean meats, poultry and eggs.
  • Beans, nuts and seeds.

You can learn more about developing a healthy eating plan at choosemyplate.gov. A registered dietitian also can help you learn more about eating well.

Stay—or get—active. If you're already physically active, good for you. Keep it up! If not, it's time to get a move on. You don't have to spend a lot of money joining a gym. Think about the activities you enjoy and do more of them, such as:

  • Walking.
  • Running.
  • Bicycling.
  • Gardening.
  • Swimming.

Your goal is to get 150 minutes of physical activity every week, or 30 minutes on most days of the week. If that still sounds daunting, you can reach your goal by exercising in 10-minute bursts.

If you haven't been active in a while, talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise program, suggests the NIH.

Learn more

For more information about achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, visit the Weight Management health topic center.

reviewed 4/15/2019

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