There isn't one weight that's ideal for every woman over age 60. What a woman should weigh depends on a number of factors, including her height and frame size. It's also possible to be of a normal weight but have a high of body fat percentage, which can sometimes happen as women get older and lose muscle mass. Whether you're over or under age 60, you can calculate your ideal body weight with a simple equation.
Determining Ideal Weight
Regardless of age, ideal body weight, abbreviated as IBW, can be estimated with a simple calculation. There are separate equations for men and women. For women, start with 100 pounds for the first 5 feet of height, and then add 5 pounds for each inch of height above 5 feet or subtract 2 pounds for each inch under 5 feet.
Ideal body weight is adjusted for body frame size, which you can figure out by putting your thumb and middle finger around your wrist. If your fingers just touch, you have a medium frame, and the calculated weight is correct for you. If your fingers can't touch, you have a large frame and if they overlap, you have a small frame. A woman with a large frame would add 10 percent to this weight and a woman with a small frame and would subtract 10 percent from this weight.
So using the equation, the IBW for a woman with a medium frame who is 5 feet 3 inches tall would be 115 pounds: 100 pounds + (3 inches x 5 pounds) = 115 pounds.
If this woman had a large frame, her IBW would be about 127 pounds: 100 + (3 x 5) + (0.10 x 115) = 127.
The IBW for a 5 foot 3 inch woman with a small frame would be 104 pounds. The weights for all three frame sizes can be combined into an IBW range of 104 to 127 pounds for a woman of this height.
For a taller woman of 5 feet 6 inches, the IBW range is 117 to 143 pounds.
A Healthy Weight According to Body Mass Index
Most doctors use body mass index to determine whether someone is at a healthy body weight. BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. You can use an online BMI calculator if you'd prefer not to do the math yourself. A body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, while anything lower than this is underweight and anything over this is considered overweight or obese. For a woman who is 5 feet 3 inches tall, a weight between 107 and 135 pounds is considered healthy, and a 5-foot 6-inch tall woman should weigh between 118 and 148 pounds.
If You're Below Your Ideal Weight
Although more than 35 percent of people aged 60 or over are obese, being underweight can also be a concern. Seniors have an increased risk for malnutrition due to a number of factors, including poor appetite, dental health issues, decreased senses of taste and smell, difficulty swallowing and health problems. Being underweight can increase your risk for hair loss, dental health problems, osteoporosis and anemia, as well as weakening your immune system, which increases your risk for becoming ill.
To gain weight, concentrate on eating more nutritious, high-calorie foods such as nut butters, hummus, avocados and cheese. Enjoy snacks between meals, or eat a number of smaller meals per day instead of three larger meals. Watch out for junk foods, however, because eating chips and donuts will provide empty calories, but very few of the nutrients your body needs for good health.
If You're Above Your Ideal Weight
If you're overweight, eating fewer calories and taking steps to become more active will help with weight loss. A 60-year-old woman who is fairly inactive only needs about 1,600 calories to maintain a healthy weight. Eating 500 fewer calories per day can help you lose about 1 pound per week.
To lose weight, focus on eating more foods with fiber such as fruits and vegetables. Another way to get more fiber is to trade foods made with refined grains for those made with whole grains. Include lean proteins because they'll help you feel fuller for longer -- it's easier to limit your intake when you don't feel as hungry.
Cut calories by avoiding sweetened beverages such as soda, juices and sweet tea; quench your thirst with water or unsweetened coffee or tea instead. Skip sweet treats like baked goods and candy, and enjoy a piece of fruit for dessert instead. Limiting added sugar, as well as dietary sodium, saturated fat and trans fat you consume will also help decrease your heart disease risk.
Body Composition Considerations for 60-Year-Old Women
Women and older individuals tend to have higher body fat percentages than men or younger people, so body mass index shouldn't be used by itself to determine whether a woman over 60 is at a healthy weight. As people age, body fat tends to increase and fat-free mass, which includes organs, bone, skin and muscle, decreases. Losing just 10 percent of your lean body mass can impair the functioning of your immune system and make you more likely to suffer from infections and illnesses, according to a review article published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal in 2006. Once people reach the age of 30, they lose between 3 and 8 percent of their lean body mass every 10 years, according to an article published in Current Opinions in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care in 2010.
Normal weight obesity, meaning a high body fat percentage even with a normal body mass index, can increase your risk for heart disease and metabolic syndrome, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal in 2010. You can help improve your body composition with exercise, however, and thus limit this risk.
Improving Body Composition Through Exercise
Being above 60 doesn't mean you're destined for a higher fat percentage and flimsy muscles though. Adding a combination of strength training and cardio exercises will help you improve your body composition by building more lean tissue and losing fat.
Without strength training to build muscle, about 25 percent of any weight you lose will be muscle instead of fat. Getting more of this type of exercise strengthens your bones and muscles so you're less likely to fall or sustain a fracture, plus exercise lowers your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Strength training can also help make it more likely that weight gained by an underweight person is more muscle than fat. Do strength-training exercises at least two days a week. If you don't have weights, you can use exercise bands, soup cans or water bottles when you're just getting started.
Cardio helps to improve your heart health and burns lots of calories, helping you to lose weight. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of cardio most days of the week. You can split this up into multiple exercise sessions in each day; you don't need to do it all at once. For example, you could take a 10- to 20-minute walk after each meal. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you're unsure how to begin, consult a personal trainer for an exercise plan tailored just for you.
- Postgraduate Medical Journal: Malnutrition and Ageing
- FamilyDoctor.org: Healthy Ways to Gain Weight If You’re Underweight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Body Mass Index: Considerations for Practitioners
- European Heart Journal: Normal Weight Obesity: A Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Dysregulation and Cardiovascular Mortality
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
- FamilyDoctor.org: Good Health Habits at Age 60 and Beyond
- American Council on Exercise: What Are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Loss?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adult Obesity Facts
- WomensHealth.gov: Overweight, Obesity, and Weight Loss Fact Sheet
- Health.gov: Older Adult Health Facts