The most common problem of people when they get older is the formation of belly fat. It doesn’t matter if a person is thin or overweight, a man or a woman; belly fat will surely develop as he/she gets older.
One of the primary reasons for the formation of belly fat in the elderly is lack of physical activity, more specifically lack of exercise. As you grow old, you will feel that your energies are slipping down and you are tempted to just lay low.
Another major reason is a faulty diet. If you eat nutritionally deficient food, and stuff yourself continuously with commercially prepared foods, you will certainly develop unwanted fats, not just on your belly, but also in other parts of your body.
There is a good type of exercise routine that can prevent belly fat from forming even as you grow old. It is called strength training.
A study conducted by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that combining aerobic exercises with resistance or weight training is the secret to preventing the accumulation of unwanted fat, specifically age-related belly fat.
“Because aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy aging,” says Rania Mekary, a researcher at Harvard’s department of nutrition, and an author of the study.
“Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults,” explains Mekary. “Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass,” she adds.
Mekary and her team conducted the study from 1996 to 2008. There were over 10,000 male participants, aged 40 and above. Their body mass indexes, a measurement of body fat by considering height and weight, varied widely.
The men’s weight, waist circumference and physical activity were analyzed to determine what type of exercises had the most dramatic effect on the amount of belly fat they have developed.
The researchers found that those who performed 20 minutes of weight training every day had a smaller increase in belly fat compared to the men who also spent the same amount of time doing moderate to vigorous aerobic exercises.
But those who remained in their sedentary way of living over the course of the 12-year study had the largest increases in their belly fat. With this Harvard study, it can no longer be disputed that engaging in weight or resistance training is the best way to prevent your belly fat from forming.
“This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly,” says Frank Hu, senior author of the study and a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard.
“To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise,” he explains.
But as an older adult, how much physical activity do you need? You need to first determine your state of health before embarking on a particular program of weight training. But it cannot be denied that regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for yourself.
Not being physically active can be detrimental for you regardless of your health condition, age or gender. This study has shown that your overall health will improve as you increase your physical activity. In fact, even if you are 65 years or older, and have no limiting health conditions, you can engage in weight training suited to your strength level.
It is very important for you to start slow and only increase your strength training conservatively. This is where you will need a physical trainer in a gym such as Anytime Fitness or Fitness 19. These trainers are well versed in the type of resistance training appropriate and safe for elderly individuals.
But if you are young and healthy and are looking forward to a long fruitful life, you can engage in any weight training appropriate to your strength level and health condition.
How often should you engage in resistance training? A number of guidelines released by the Health and Human Services suggest that strength training on 2 or more days every week will work major muscle groups such as the abdomen, backs, hips, legs, arms and shoulders.
It is important for you to give your muscles a day of rest between workouts. You should not do resistance training every day just to reduce your belly fat. Your muscles will be overworked and you will defeat your purpose.
Pay attention to what your body says. There will be some pain while doing your strength training especially at the start, but resistance training in itself should not cause pain. If it does, stop it right away, and do other forms of resistance training.