Do we gain weight as we gain years? However you want to phrase it, it’s become almost common sense that we will get softer around the edges as we get older. But is this an actual, inevitable biological phenomenon or is it just the excuse we give ourselves? Is it nature or is it nurture? Well, it turns out it’s a bit of both.
On the nature side of things, once we hit the grand old age of 20 our bodies aren’t developing so quickly and therefore don’t require as much energy to simply exist. This slows down our metabolic rate and all of a sudden we find that we can’t get away with eating what we used to.
Once we hit 30, are bodies begin to handle fats differently and the subcutaneous (under the skin) fats in our bodies begin to, I guess, transform into what we call “visceral” fats. “Visceral” fats are those that cling onto our internal organs (and the ones that cause heart disease and stroke).
Sadly, women have a bit of harsher deal when it comes to nature (go figure) because of menopause. After menopause and the hormonal turmoil it wreaks, women’s body fat can increase by as much as 30 percent. Curse you for the umpteenth time uterus!
It is also a fact that, as we get older, our nerve impulse activity decreases by approximately 15 percent and therefore our reaction times become slower. Through no fault of our own, we get slower as we age and this means we are burning less energy.
As we near 60 years of age there is likely to be a 40-50 percent decrease in our breathing capacity, our muscle mass and our bone mass — making it 40-50 percent harder to sustain the kind of physical activity we used to!
However, that’s about as far as the nature side of things takes us.
There are many legitimate lifestyle changes that we go through as we age that have very real affects on our waistlines. It’s up to you to decide if you’d like to change any of the following (personally, for the most part, I think these lifestyle choices are either unavoidable or well-earned but, like I said, I’ll let you be the judge):
Being Busy: Our priorities change as we get older. We have kids to organise and run around after. We have mortages and demanding jobs to pay for them. We may even have parents to look after. We’re lucky if we get find five minutes to sit down of an evening, let alone find thirty to do our recommended daily cardio.
We Don’t Care: It may be that we’ve been settled down for some time and no longer feel the need to impress or that we’ve simply come to realise that there are more important things in life than being thin — like wine or bridge!
Our Friends are Busy: Not only do we get busier as we get older, but so too do our friends, and this makes coordinating sport with friends a lot harder. Our friends aren’t free all of the time for play-dates like they used to be. And Saturday sport becomes a lot harder to manage when you’re all too busy taking your kids to their Saturday sport.
Injury and Recovery Time: Our bodies also can’t handle as much youthful activity as we get older. Old injuries play up a lot more as we age and new ones are much more difficult to recover from.
Higher Stress Levels: I’ve already discussed the greater responsibilities that come with age, but the stress of these responsibilities also comes with great cravings for naughty things. Do you remember devouring lollies and soft drink (for me it was cheese toasties) in the lead up to your high school exams? Well, life starts to get a lot more pressured, and generally more high-school-exam-y, as we age and this comes with those exact same cravings.
Christmas Holidays: “Noooooo” I hear you scream. But sadly Christmas holidays often do a lot of damage that we don’t address. Research tells us that the average person gains between 500 grams and a kilo over the Christmas break (and even that sounds optimistic to me) and that people don’t really drop this weight once the holiday period is over. That means that, over ten years of Christmas partying, the average person gains between five and ten kilos! It’s no wonder Santa’s so chubby… he has Christmas all year round!
So there you have it; gaining weight as you get older is, in part, a biological fact and, in part, an measure of our lifestyles. For me though, getting older can suck and, as long as you’re happy and you’re waistline isn’t effecting your loved ones (like it would if you were in serious risk of a heart attack or stroke), you deserve a few of those lifestyle changes as you get older — particularly as you’re already coping with the unavoidable biological crappiness of aging.