Maintaining a Healthy Weight Is One of the Best Ways to Stay Well

Three elderly women walking briskly through a park


We’ve all heard that being overweight is bad for your health. But it may be even more dangerous than you think. Obesity increases inflammation (which may exacerbate everything from arthritis to heart disease), increases the rate of bone and muscle loss, and significantly raises one’s risk for heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers and diabetes. The good news is that, for most people, obesity is a treatable condition that comes with many benefits. Here’s just some of the things you’ll gain when you lose those excess pounds.

You’ll lower your risk for many diseases

As we discussed above, obesity raises your risk for a variety of deadly diseases. Cutting the weight can, in many cases, immediately reduce your risk for these diseases.

You’ll lower your risk of injury

Not only does carrying extra pounds increase your risk of disease, it nearly doubles your risk of injury. In a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 85 percent of workers injured on the job were overweight.

Your memory may improve

According to a several studies, losing weight may improve your memory. In one study, obese people were divided into two groups – one group had gastric bypass surgery, the other didn’t. After 12 weeks, both groups took a set of memory tastes, similar to ones taken before the study began. The surgery patients, who lost an average of 50 pounds, showed improvement in a number of cognitive abilities, including memory. Those who had not had the surgery showed a mild decline in memory. Additionally, obesity has been shown to be one of the risk factors in developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Now that you know the benefits, here’s some ways you can help maintain a healthy weight.

Enjoy the outdoors

Get up off the couch, your office chair, or whatever is keeping you indoors and get out in nature. Not only will the walk (or the gardening) burn calories, according to the Harvard Health Letter, you’ll also enjoy more Vitamin D, your mood may improve and you may heal more quickly.

Become conscious of what you eat

Do you unconsciously grab a snack on your way to work in the morning? Or first thing when you come home at night? Simply being aware of unconscious habits can help you recognize times when you might be eating when you’re not even hungry. So when you get home from work, instead of grabbing that snack, take the dog for a walk, mow the lawn or check your email.

Get a good night’s sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, inadequate sleep lowers our metabolic rate, leading to weight gain. And a lack of sleep can hinder the ability of the frontal lobe of the brain—which governs decision-making and impulse control—to perform at its best, making it harder to resist food cravings. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that people who were sleep-deprived tended to eat more late-night snacks and were most likely to choose high-carb snacks.

Get a dog

Dogs require exercise and serve as an impetus for their owners to get up off the couch and go for a walk. In addition to creating a reason for exercise, dogs provide numerous other benefits that tend to help us curb overeating. According to Allen R. McConnell, Ph.D., lead researcher of a study conducted by psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University, “Pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.”

Make healthier choices

Instead of having a glass of orange juice in the morning, substitute a glass of water. If that seems unthinkable, try a “half and half” – half orange juice, half water. That way, you’ll get most of the taste with half the calories. Drinking a glass of water before meals may also help curb your appetite. Instead of potato chips, have a bowl of air-popped popcorn or, better yet, an apple. Instead of ice cream, try some fruit sorbet. Instead of a prepackaged, microwavable entrée (which are often loaded with unnecessary salt, sugar and trans fats), fix something from fresh, whole ingredients.

Categories: Senior Health