Ever notice that as the years keep adding up, so does your waist size? As we get older, many develop what is referred to as ‘skinny fat’, or people who have a normal BMI, but carry more fat, instead of muscle, than is considered healthy. Additionally overweight people with a similar low muscle mass suffer from something called sarcopenic obesity, which can be due to an overall high amount of fat in our body in combination with a low muscle mass. But why does this happen? Even if we stick to the same diet and exercise plan that kept us fit when we were younger, that stubborn fat still seems to increase. What gives?
Well, unfortunately, as humans, we tend to not age as a fine wine when it comes to our bodies.Your yoga team can help you, but here are some of the changes that occur with age you may want to know:
We lose muscle mass. This can make running around and lifting things up more difficult than before, making a sedentary lifestyle appear more appealing. However, it’s important to try and keep up some muscle and strength as older adults with low skeletal muscle mass are 1.95-2.62 times more at risk of becoming obese, compared to older adults with normal skeletal muscle mass.
Our muscle fibers shrink, making our overall muscles smaller and harder to build up.
We lose muscle function. Muscles become infiltrated with fat and then their function suffers even more.
We lose motor coordination. This is because, as we age, our central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (nerves throughout our body) nervous system become less efficient.
Low levels of physical activity. With our bones becoming more brittle and muscles becoming sparse, we are unable to do things as well as we used to. As a result, we tend to live more inactive lives.
We lose bone structure with loss of bone mass, so the muscles don’t stay in frame as well as they used to.
Our muscles lose the ability to process oxygen, so they go into oxygen debt faster. This could be due to either aging or lack of activity. But it does lead being tired more often.
We exhibit hormonal changes which contribute to weight gain. For men, it is lack of testosterone. For women, it is both a lack of estrogen and testosterone.
Reduced thyroid hormone responsiveness. The thyroid is mainly responsible for metabolism regulation. As we age, thyroid hormones become less effective and so our metabolism suffers. This means we typically need to eat healthier foods in fewer quantities in order to avoid weight gain.
As we age, our leptin sensitivity becomes altered. Leptin is a hormone that regulates energy in the body. It is responsible for sending signals to the brain when we are full. But, as we age, those signals aren’t heard as well, and so we tend to over eat and increase our fat content.
The vascular wall of our arteries tend to emaciate, making our arteries weaker and less efficient, leaving us more prone to hypertension, diabetes, and kidney failure.
Living an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to further development of low grade inflammation. Low grade inflammation is stepping stone for type 2 diabetes, and can also cause serious problems in the immune system, liver, and pancreas.
As the years pass, our immune system begins to deteriorate as we become more susceptible to infections, diseases, and to top it all off, we recover more slowly from them.
We experience an increase in free fatty acids because of all the factors above. Weight gain means an increase in free fatty acids that compete with glucose as an energy source, which causes more glucose to be left in our blood, which spikes our blood sugar.
Similar to thyroid hormones, a decrease in insulin effectiveness occurs with age. Insulin is responsible for signaling our bodies to take up glucose from our blood for energy. But, as we get older, we become less responsive to the insulin, and so the glucose stays in our body and as a result: our blood sugar has a higher chance of spiking and our energy suffers.
I know this seems like a lot to think about, but some of these are just natural processes that we (unfortunately) can’t avoid. What we can do is try to focus on a healthy diet with an active lifestyle. Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to see what changes you can make to build a healthier you so you can avoid the severity of some of these changes.