Elderly_exerciseLet me start by stating the obvious: In order to lose weight, you need to create an energy deficit by eating fewer calories or increasing the number of calories you burn through physical activity, or both. Bet you never heard that before. So we all agree, no breaking news here. Now lets take this bit of common knowledge and add a couple of other simple concepts and see where we end up.

In the world of weight loss there are as many excuses for failure as there are fad diets and miracle pills. But one of the biggest excuses used for weight loss failure is a slow metabolism. However, contrary to popular belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain. Although your metabolism influences your body’s basic energy needs, it’s your food and beverage intake and your physical activity that ultimately determine how much you weigh.

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

Even when you are at rest, your body needs energy for all its hidden functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells.

The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate, or your metabolism. Several factors determine your individual basal metabolic rate, including:

  • Your body size and composition. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
  • Your sex. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, burning more calories.
  • Your age. As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.

Energy needs for your body’s functions stay fairly consistent and are not easily changed. Your basal metabolic rate accounts for about 70 percent of the calories you burn every day.

In addition to your basal metabolic rate, two other factors determine how many calories your body burns each day:

  • Food processing (thermogenesis). Digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you consume also takes calories. This accounts for 100 to 800 of the calories used each day. For the most part, your body’s energy requirement to process food stays relatively steady and is not easily changed.
  • Physical activity. Physical activity and exercise, such as playing tennis, walking to the store, or chasing after the dog and any other movement, account for the rest of the calories your body burns up each day. Physical activity is by far the most variable of the factors that determine how many calories you burn each day.

Metabolism is a natural process and your body has many mechanisms that regulate it to meet your individual needs. Only in rare cases do you get excessive weight gain from a medical problem that slows metabolism, such as an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).

Weight gain is complicated. It is likely a combination of genetic makeup, hormonal controls, diet composition, and the impact of environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity and stress. All of these factors result in an imbalance in the energy equation…and coming full circle, you gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn, or burn fewer calories than you eat.

While you do not have much control over the speed of your basal metabolism, you can control how many calories you burn through your level of physical activity. The more active you are, the more calories you burn. Actually, some people who are thought to have a fast metabolism are likely just more active and maybe more fidgety than others.

You can burn more calories with:

  • Regular aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is the most efficient way to burn calories and includes activities such as walking, bicycling and swimming. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to increase the time you spend on physical activity even more. If you can’t set aside time for a longer workout, try 10 minute chunks of activity throughout the day. The more active you are, the greater the benefits.
  • Strength training. Strength training exercises, such as weightlifting, are important because they help counteract muscle loss associated with aging. Since muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue does, muscle mass is a key factor in weight loss. (Please understand that weightlifting does not require the use of excessively heavy weights, Successful results are derived from the form used, the tempo of the exercise and the rep and set count).
  • Lifestyle activities. Any extra movement helps burn calories. Look for ways to walk and move around a few minutes more each day than the day before. Taking the stairs more often and parking farther ways at the store are simple ways to burn more calories. Even activities such as gardening, washing your car and housework burn calories and contribute to weight loss. (So give the staff the day off and get to work)!

Do not look to dietary supplements for help in burning calories or weight loss. Products that claim to speed up your metabolism are often more hype than help, and some may cause undesirable or even dangerous side effects. Dietary supplement manufacturers are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to prove that their products are safe or effective, so view these products with caution and skepticism, and always let your doctors know about any supplements you take.

There is no easy way to lose weight. The foundation for weight loss continues to be based on physical activity and diet. Take in fewer calories than you burn, and lose weight.

Knowledge is increasing about all of the mechanisms that impact appetite, food selection, and how your body processes and burns food. Your health care provider can help you explore interventions that can help you lose weight.

Wow! That is a lot of information and I am happy to share it with you. However, rest assured that this information comes from a source far smarter than me. I can try to recreate the wheel and be much more original but my goal is to provide you with the most current and reliable information available. Therefore, I search for articles like this one from reliable sources that agree with my own personal philosophy. This article is a result of a study conducted by Mayo Clinic Staff and their resources. Although I concur with and promote these findings, credit for the research and presentation goes the Mayo Clinic Staff.

Now, put that donut down and take a walk!