Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health and well-being.
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.
How Can I Keep a Healthy Weight?
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. As a rule of thumb:
- To keep your weight the same, you need to burn the same number of calories as you eat and drink.
- To lose weight, burn more calories than you eat and drink.
- To gain weight, burn fewer calories than you eat and drink.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Weight
- Limit portion size to control calorie intake.
- Add healthy snacks during the day if you want to gain weight.
- Be as physically active as you can be.
- Talk to your doctor about your weight if you think that you weigh too much or too little.
What Should I Eat to Maintain a Healthy Weight?
How Much Physical Activity Do I Need?
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.
Tip: Physical Activity
Most older people can be moderately active. But, you might want to talk to your doctor if you aren’t used to energetic activity and you want to start a vigorous exercise program or significantly increase your physical activity. You should also check with your doctor if you have health concerns like the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- An irregular heartbeat
- Blood clots
- Joint swelling
- A hernia
- Recent hip or back surgery
Your doctor might have some safety tips or suggest certain types of exercise for you.
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.
For More Information on Maintaining a Healthy Weight
U.S. Department of Agriculture
This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.
Content reviewed: April 29, 2019