Why do we get fatter as we age?

By Tim Robards

Once we shift from our developing years our energy expenditure generally slows down. Photo / Getty
Once we shift from our developing years our energy expenditure generally slows down. Photo / Getty

Many people find that when they look back at images of themselves in their early 20s they are a far cry from where they are now. As the years go by, the extra kilos here and there add up.

But is it inevitable to put on a few kilos of fat on as you head into your 30s, 40s, 50s and onwards due to genetics and hormones? Or is it an accumulation of poor lifestyle habits and the fast paced, sugar filled and disposable world we live in now?

Statistics show that our body fat increases steadily after age 30 and for women this may increase by as much as 30 per cent by the time menopause starts.

The fat shifts from subcutaneous, under the skin, to visceral which is around the internal organs. Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Between the ages of 30 and 60 our reaction time slows down with a decrease in the speed at which our nerves conduct impulses by approximately 15 per cent.

Our maximum breathing capacity decreases approximately 40 per cent and there's an average of 40 per cent to 50 per cent reduction in muscle mass during with a similar decline in bone mass.

When we look at the data from the National Nutrition Survey 1995 and National Health Survey 2007-08, we see the prevalence of overweight and obesity increases with age.

There's no denying that hormones change in different ways as we age especially through menopause which can effect weight gain. But there are so many other reasons our weight creeps up.

Here are 10 possible lifestyle causes of weight gain as you age so you can keep an eye out for them and, most importantly, do something about it:

1. Social factors and relationships - Once you are off the market some lose motivation to keep up the advertising budget (ie. keep in shape)

2. Life gets busy/kids - Priorities change to provide a living for family and get ahead financially

3. Once we shift from our developing years (0-20yrs thereabouts) our energy expenditure generally slows down as our resting metabolic rate (RMR) decreases

4. Our jobs generally become more sedentary as we get older

5. We stop playing sports

6. We generally stop being as active - We lose the drive to go play handball or soccer at lunch, or go skateboarding or bike riding with our friends after school

7. Old injuries add up and slow us down - even those with the best intentions can struggle with the accumulation of injuries and the rate at which they heal as you age

8. We value things other than being slim - Our food, cars, whisky, poker nights etc suddenly become more important

9. Higher levels of general lifestyle stress equals more cravings of all things that start with 'C' and end in 'E'. Chocolate, coffee, cake, cookies, Coke ... the list goes on

10. Christmas holiday breaks - they're fun at the time, but studies show the average person stacks on weight each year over the holidays and then doesn't manage to shed it all. The average gain each year is around 500 grams, which over 10 years can add up. That's five kilos a decade!

So are we doomed and have to accept the ageing weight gain and the disease and complications that come with it? Or can we address some of the lifestyle habits above and achieve a better quality of life, a longer existence and less lifestyle disease?

I know what my thoughts are ... I endeavour to provide you with the knowledge, education and tools to create better lifestyle habits, so that you have the best life possible!

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