How Can a 60-Year-Old Man Lose Weight & Build Muscle?

As men age, the amount of testosterone their bodies produce gradually begins to decline. When combined with the joint pains and other discomforts that often accompany aging, this can lead to a less active lifestyle and contribute to increased fat storage and weight gain. Through regular exercise, watching their diets and making other lifestyle changes, men 60 or older can combat the weight gain and muscle loss that often accompanies aging.

Body Changes and Aging

By the time a man reaches his 60th birthday he can lose as much as 10 pounds of muscle or more, and will continue losing between 0.5 and 2 percent of his muscle mass per year. The loss of this muscle mass and the decrease in testosterone production slows the metabolism, reducing the rate at which the body burns calories and making it harder for you to lose weight. As muscle mass decreases, bones may weaken and joints have to carry more weight with less muscular support. Since calories are burned more slowly, more fat is stored in the body, which can lead to health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To counteract this, a combination of physical activity and dietary change is needed.

Strength Training

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Strength training works the muscles of the arms, legs and body core to increase muscular strength and counteract the loss of muscle mass that naturally occurs with aging. Lifting weights and performing other strength training exercises such as pushups or working with resistance bands builds muscle and also strengthens the bones to reduce the risk of fractures and spinal problems while increasing overall flexibility by up to 30 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults perform one to three sets of muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice weekly, working all the body's major muscle groups to ensure even muscle development; each set should contain eight to 12 repetitions of the exercise. A 2004 study performed at the University of Alabama suggests that strength training performed three times weekly also improves mood and reduces tension, anger and confusion.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercises that strengthen the cardiovascular system offer multiple benefits to men 60 and older. Jogging, swimming and bike riding strengthen the heart and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because these exercises work the heart while also working the arms, legs and core muscles, aerobic exercises burn calories faster than strength training exercises alone. The CDC recommends at least 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic activity weekly depending on the intensity of the exercise, though this total can be broken into increments as small as 10 minutes of aerobic activity and still be effective.

Diet Considerations

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According to Mayo Clinic, even weight loss as small as 5 percent or 10 percent of body fat in overweight individuals may reduce the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Dietary changes can have a significant impact on weight loss, especially for older men. Eat fewer calories, sugar, sodium and fat; eat more fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains. Research performed at the Human Nutrition Research Centre of Auvergne in Clermont-Ferrand, France, also suggests that a diet high in the amino acid leucine can help to slow muscle degradation; this amino acid is in meat, beans and soy products.

Lifestyle Changes

General lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on weight loss and muscle development as well. Stress hormones can lead to weight gain and overeating, so try to reduce stress in your life. Get plenty of rest: Sleep allows the body to repair itself and further reduces stress. Other lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, walking or riding a bike instead of driving to the store, and eating breakfast every day if you have been skipping it can help your weight loss plans succeed, and will help you keep off the pounds that you lose.

Beginning a Routine

Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise routine or diet. He will perform tests to determine your body mass index and fitness, and will work with you to develop weight loss and muscle development goals. Your doctor will likely want to monitor your progress as well, scheduling follow-up visits at intervals to check both your weight loss and muscle development. You may also wish to consult a personal trainer, nutritionist and other specialists to learn proper exercise techniques and diet structuring; this will help further personalize your exercise plans and diet changes. Increase the frequency, intensity and duration of your exercise periods gradually, starting slowly and building endurance, to avoid injury and other complications.