How losing weight could help you lead a healthier retirement
Many people have active plans for their retirement; they want to be able to travel to new places, take up hobbies they've always wanted to try and run around after their grandchildren, so it's important that they are in good physical health.
However, decades of sitting down for eight hours a day in a desk job, constant supplies of cake and biscuits in the office and busy lifestyles that prevent us from exercising as much as we'd like mean that a lot of people are overweight when they retire.
But losing weight could provide you with a whole new lease of life, make you feel better than you have for years and reduce your risk of developing several life-threatening health conditions. It will also leave you with more energy to do everything you've always wanted to do in your retirement.
So, what are the best ways to lose weight and keep it off, and what benefits will this bring to your health and fitness?
The health benefits of losing weight
It's important for people of all ages to have a healthy body mass index (BMI). This is calculated by measuring your height and weight, which helps to work out how much body fat you have and where you fit on the scale. A healthy BMI score is between 18.5 and 25; anything above this will mean that you are overweight and obese and need to lose some weight.
Aside from making you feel more energetic and slimmer and your clothes fitting better, there are countless benefits to losing a few pounds.
People who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to the onset of heart disease or a stroke, while the development of type 2 diabetes is also a major possibility. If type 2 diabetes is not properly managed, the risks include blindness and even limb amputation, so it is important to do all you can to prevent yourself from developing it in the first place.
In addition, several types of cancer have been found to be more common in people who are overweight, while ailments such as back pain and osteoarthritis are also more likely.
However, by losing weight with a healthier diet and more exercise, you can lower your BMI over time and significantly reduce your risk of each of these health conditions. In fact, research shows that losing just five per cent of your total body weight can yield these results, so what are you waiting for?
The pros and cons of popular weight loss plans
New diet trends are constantly being flagged up by the media; do you remember all the fuss about the cabbage soup diet and the Atkins diet? More recently, it seems to have been all about juicing.
When it comes to choosing a diet plan to follow, it's important to pick one that incorporates all of the food groups and won't leave you feeling too hungry, as that's when you'll be most likely to snack.
Going along to a weight loss group such as Slimming World or Weight Watchers is a good option if you think you'll require support from others in a similar situation to yourself. Slimming World doesn't ban any foods, and you don't have to count calories while following the plan. You're allowed to eat as much as you like of what it calls 'free' foods, which include fruit, vegetables, lean meat, eggs, fat-free dairy products and carbohydrates like pasta, rice and potatoes. Then, you're allowed a certain amount of 'syns' each day for treats like a bar of chocolate or a glass of wine, as well as a measured amount of fibre from bread or cereal and calcium from milk or cheese each day.
Weight Watchers works slightly differently, giving dieters a certain number of SmartPoints that you're allowed to use each day, meaning no foods are banned, but you do have to make healthy, sensible choices to make sure you don't blow all your points for the day on a family-sized bar of chocolate!
Lots of people also achieve success with the 5:2 diet plan, which involves eating a healthy, balanced diet for five days of the week, while restricting calorie intake on the other two. If you love your food and don't think you could cope with limiting your intake two days a week, then this plan probably isn't for you.
If it's a quick weight loss fix that you're after before a wedding or a holiday, for example, diets such as the LighterLife and SlimFast plan are ideal. These require replacing some of your meals with specialist milkshakes, soups or snack bars to help you lose weight quickly. Bear in mind that as soon as you start eating normally again though, the weight is likely to creep back on, whereas plans such as Weight Watchers and Slimming World can be followed for years, as nothing is off limits.
How exercise can also help
Some weight loss plans, such as Slimming World, don't actually require you to do any exercise in order to lose weight, but you will boost your results if you do, while your fitness levels will also improve and you'll lower your risk of heart disease and other health conditions even further.
If you're not particularly active, start small, perhaps with a walk around your local park a couple of times a week, before you feel like you could try jogging part of the way. Increase this over time and you'll soon be running with the youngsters.
Alternatively, swimming is more gentle on the joints, making it ideal for anyone with arthritic twinges, and you can build up the number of lengths you swim over time.
If you think you'd benefit from some peer support, most gyms offer exercise classes aimed at the over-50s, which are usually run by experts who know what types of activity are best for older people - you might even make some new friends here too.
Even if you're unable to get out and about, recent research found that exercising your arms and legs while you're sat down can have significant health benefits, even helping to prevent the onset of dementia.
This was according to a study carried out as part of the Love to Move initiative by Age UK and the British Gymnastics Foundation (BGF), which found that 71 per cent of people who tried chair-based gymnastics experienced improvements to their physical fitness. It also helped to boost people's wellbeing, with 93 per cent of participants reporting feeling happier after trying out the exercises.
Speaking to BBC Sport, manager of the BGF Patrick Bonner commented: "So many people involved are seeing their lives improving as a result and it is unthinkable that people are regaining functions which were thought to be lost because of participating in the Love to Move classes."
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