There's One Major Drawback to Losing Weight When You're Older — Here's How to Avoid It

No matter your age, it's never too late to practice a healthy lifestyle and work toward a weight-loss goal. For people who are overweight, shedding pounds at any age boasts some big health benefits.

Loss of bone density can be an issue when older people lose weight, but resistance exercise can help counter this effect.
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Not only can weight loss improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar (not to mention boost your energy and self-confidence), it can also help lower your chances of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That said, as you get older, losing weight may also come with one major downside: bone loss (and subsequently, an increased risk of fractures), according to a December 2019 study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Fortunately, there's a way to drop pounds and protect your bones at the same time: The study also found that resistance exercise, alone or combined with aerobic exercise, is an effective way for older adults to maintain bone density while following a weight-loss regimen.

Read more: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Age-Related Weight Gain

The Importance of Strong Bones

From providing structural support to protecting your organs and anchoring your muscles, bones play several major roles in your body, per the Mayo Clinic. But after the age of 30, you start to lose more bone mass than you gain. And as bone density decreases, the risk of falling and major injuries increase, says, Geoff Tripp, CSCS, certified personal trainer and head of fitness at Trainiac.

What's more, maintaining bone health is critical for health aging. As you age, an injury can have major consequences for your quality of life: "In older populations, a severe fall could mean the loss of functionality," says Tripp.

Read more: 8 Foods for Strong Bones (and 3 to Avoid)

Resistance training can help you create and preserve healthy bone density, especially as you age.
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How Does Resistance Training Bolster Bone Health?

"Bone adapts to stress that is placed on it," says Tripp. Through compression forces, resistance exercises place stress on your bones and your tendons (which tug and pull on your bones). The result? "The combination of compression and the tug-pull effect stimulates bone-producing cells (osteoblasts and osteocytes) to lay down new, stronger bone," Tripp says. In other words, strength training improves your bone density and mass by creating and preserving healthier bones.

So, how often should you do resistance-based exercises? "Generally, people of all ages should perform resistance exercise two to four times per week to maintain and improve bone density and muscle mass," says Tripp.

His recommendation is in line with the Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which encourage adults to do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. The guidelines also say that adults should get in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week.

Curious exactly how many calories you burn during your workouts? Download the MyPlate app for a more accurate and customized estimate.

Resistance-Exercise Workouts for Weight Loss

Ready to boost your bones and shed some pounds? Try incorporating these two resistance-based routines, designed by Tripp, into your weekly workout regimen.

For each workout, start with three to five minutes of dynamic stretching to warm up your muscles. Then, perform each move for 10 to 12 reps and repeat the circuit two times total, resting 30 seconds in between each move and 1 minute in between rounds. Make sure to cool down with a series of static stretches.

Workout 1

Resistance Band T-Pulls

  1. Grip a long, light resistance band at both ends with arms in front of you at shoulder height.
  2. Keep your arms relatively straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you move your hands out to the sides, pulling the band toward your chest.
  3. Return to the starting position slowly and with control.

Bar Bell Push-Up

  1. Secure a barbell at hip height in a squat rack.
  2. Place your hands on the bar, just beyond shoulder-width apart.
  3. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  4. Keep your core and glutes tight as you lower your body until your chest almost touches the bar.
  5. Engaging your chest muscles, push your body up back to starting position.

TRX Pull-Ups

  1. Gripping the suspension straps, start in an extended position (facing the ceiling) with your back straight, hips tucked and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squeeze your shoulder blades, bend your elbows and keep your wrists straight as you pull your body up until your hands are at the side of your chest.
  3. Slowly lower your body back down to the starting position.

Tip

Don't have suspension straps on hand? You can use a barbell or Smith machine bar to perform this move, too.

Lateral Band Walk

  1. Loop a resistance band just above your knees.
  2. Keep your feet hip-width apart as you take 10 small steps to the side, engaging your hip muscles.
  3. Repeat on opposite side.
A kettle bell can be a great addition to your strength-training routine.
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Kettlebell Goblet Squat to Bench

  1. Stand next to a bench and grip a kettlebell at chest height.
  2. Push your hips back and down as you bend your knees and lower into a sitting squat (making sure your knees don't go over your toes).
  3. Then, drive through your quads and glutes to stand.

Read more: The 12 Best Kettlebell Exercises You're Not Doing

Seated Hamstring Curl

  1. Select a moderately heavy weight.
  2. Take a seat on the hamstring curl machine with your back placed comfortably against the pad and your legs fully extended in front of you.
  3. Position the lap pad between your knees and hips.
  4. Flex your knees and use your hamstrings to pull the weight down and toward you.
  5. Squeeze and hold for a brief second before slowly releasing back to the starting position.

Plank Holds

  1. Start lying on your stomach, hands under your shoulders and feet flexed, toes pressing into the ground.
  2. Push through your hands and toes as you lift yourself up so that your arms are fully extended and your body is in a straight line from head to toes.
  3. Tighten your core and keep your hips from sagging.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, then rest for 2. Repeat three times for one set.

Cable Band Press

  1. Adjust the cable machine so that it's about chest height.
  2. Grab the handle with both hands and take two or three steps out so that there's tension on the cable.
  3. Keep your core engaged as you press the cable straight out in front of your body, being sure not to rotate your body.
  4. Return to starting position. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides.

Rope Curls

  1. Secure a rope attachment to a low pulley and stand facing the cable machine.
  2. Grab the rope with a neutral grip (palms inward) and take a step back.
  3. Keep your elbows in by your side as you pull the rope up.
  4. Squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement, then lower back to starting position.

Rope Tricep Extensions

  1. Secure a rope attachment to a high pulley and stand facing the cable machine.
  2. Grab the rope with both hands (palms downward) and take a step back.
  3. Keep your elbows at your side as you pull the rope down.
  4. Squeeze your triceps at the bottom of the movement, then slowly return to starting position.

Workout 2

Dumbbell Ys and Ts

  1. Hinge at your hips, lean forward and keep your back flat.
  2. Holding a light pair of dumbbells (thumbs facing up), lift both arms above your head forming the letter "Y".
  3. Next, bring your arms out to your sides to form the letter "T."

Cable Chest Press

  1. Using a cable machine, position the pulleys to chest height and select a moderately heavy weight.
  2. Grab the handles with an overhand grip and step forward.
  3. Press the weight away from your body until your arms are straight.
  4. Slowly bring your arms back to your chest.

Cable Squat to Row

  1. Using a cable machine, position the pulleys to chest height.
  2. Grab a handle in each hand and stand facing the cable machine with feet hip-width apart.
  3. Bend your knees and sit back, lowering your body into a squat.
  4. As you stand, bend your elbows and pull the handles to the sides of your chest, squeezing your back muscles.

Lateral Band Walk

  1. Loop a resistance band just above your knees.
  2. Keep your feet hip-width apart as you take 10 small steps to the side, engaging your hip muscles.
  3. Repeat on opposite side.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

  1. Grip a kettlebell at chest height.
  2. Push your hips back and down as you bend your knees and lower into a squat.
  3. Then, drive through your quads and glutes to stand.

Floor Glute Bridge

  1. Start by lying on your back.
  2. Place your heels on the ground with your knees bent to 90 degrees.
  3. Tuck your pelvis, engage your core and drive through your heels as you lift your hips up.
  4. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then slowly lower to starting position.
Plank holds are a great move to strengthen your core.
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Plank Holds

  1. Start lying on your stomach, hands under your shoulders and feet flexed, toes pressing into the ground.
  2. Push through your hands and toes as you lift yourself up so that your arms are fully extended and your body is in a straight line from head to toes.
  3. Tighten your core and keep your hips from sagging.
  4. Hold for 10 seconds, then rest for two. Repeat three times for one set.

Cable Band Press

  1. Adjust the cable machine so that it's about chest height.
  2. Grab the handle with both hands and take two or three steps out so that there's tension on the cable.
  3. Keep your core engaged as you press the cable straight out in front of your body, being sure not to rotate your body.
  4. Return to starting position. Repeat for 10-12 reps, then switch sides.

Split Squats

  1. Start in a staggered stance.
  2. Slowly lower into a lunge, bending both knees to 90 degrees.
  3. Keep your chest up and your front knee behind your toes as you drive through your feet to stand.
  4. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps, then switch to the opposite leg.

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

  1. Lie flat on your back and place both feet on top of a stability ball.
  2. Dig your heels into the ball and pick your hips up.
  3. Slowly pull the ball in towards your hips using your hamstring and calf muscles.
  4. Keep your core engaged to maintain balance, then extend your legs, pushing the ball back to starting position.

Dumbbell Curl to Press

  1. Grab a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells and hold them at your sides.
  2. Flexing your elbows, curl the weight upward in a controlled motion.
  3. Then rotate your palms outward and press the dumbbells overhead until your arms are straight.

Dumbbell Tricep Kickback

  1. Grab a pair of moderately heavy dumbbells (palms facing your body) and hold them at your sides.
  2. Hinge forward at your hips, keeping core pulled in and your back straight.
  3. Bend your arms 90 degrees at the elbow so your triceps are aligned with your back.
  4. Lift the dumbbells up and back as you straighten your arms.
  5. Pause briefly at the top contraction, then lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
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