The metabolism usually slows with age, and that slowing means you cannot eat like your younger self without putting on the pounds. The cause of a slowing metabolism is a combination of factors, but primarily reduced activity and a slowing of metabolic processes.
Understanding Your Metabolism
Your metabolism comprises all the chemical reactions that keep you alive and accounts for the calories you burn daily. A fast metabolism means you burn calories quickly, allowing you to eat more daily calories.
The speed of the metabolism relies on several factors: resting metabolic rate, thermic effect of food, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and exercise. Other elements can also affect its speed, including height, hormonal factors, muscle mass, and age. Of all the potential contributors to a slowing metabolism, three affect it the most in terms of aging.
1. Reduced Activity
Your activity level is a significant contributor to the speed of your metabolism. Most people are less active as they age. According to studies, over 25% of Americans between the ages of 50 and 65 don't exercise outside of work.
If people maintain exercise patterns or begin exercising, they can prevent metabolism slowdown. According to one study comparing the metabolisms of two groups — 21 to 35-year-olds and 50 to 72-year-olds — regular endurance exercise can prevent the metabolism from slowing.
2. Reduced Muscle Mass
Did you know that by the time you reach 80, you may have 30% less muscle mass than you did at 20? People lose muscle mass because they become less active as they age. Unfortunately, less muscle mass can equate to a slower metabolism.
3. Slowed Metabolic Processes
Your resting metabolic rate is a result of several chemical reactions in your body. The reactions rely on sodium-potassium pumps and mitochondria. The pumps generate and stimulate heart and muscle contractions, and mitochondria create cellular energy. Unfortunately, according to research, both components decrease in number and efficiency with age.
Preventing the Metabolism From Slowing Down
The rate of slowdown is different for every individual. However, you can limit the amount your system slows by maintaining muscle mass and keeping an active lifestyle. When researchers factor in for gender, fat and muscle, they find that people over 60 burn an average of 24 to 53 fewer calories per day than people between the ages of 20 and 34.
Since most studies show that activity and muscle mass play the most significant role in maintaining metabolic speed, it also points to the hope that you can have some control over your metabolism, even as you age. Experts suggest several activities and behaviors to protect and improve your metabolic rate:
High-Intensity Interval Training
Your body changes as you age, and with those changes comes a slowing metabolism. While the system may slow, the rate it slows depends on several factors, including activity level and muscle mass. If a slowing metabolism concerns you, consult your primary care physician for tips on improving your diet and activity level.