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Age and weight: Why it gets harder to shift weight as you get older

It might be difficult, but it's not impossible.

Is It Harder To Lose Weight as You Get Older? | Juniper

Remember getting home from school in the afternoon, finding your favourite cartoon lineup on the TV, and absolutely raiding the pantry for all of the snacks? Us too. But if things look a little different now, you wouldn't be the only one. While it's easy to get away with eating whatever we like when we're young, the science doesn't lie: it's definitely harder to lose weight the older we get.

There's no need to panic, though — there are some normal age-related changes that are always going to happen, but weight loss when you get older isn't impossible. Things like keeping up your physical activity, eating healthy foods, and checking in with your GP about any health conditions can all help you keep on top of your weight loss goals.

If you're noticing it's been harder to lose weight lately (or just need some tips and tricks to get the most out of your exercise routine), we've got you sorted. Keep reading for some insider info on how to maintain a healthy weight as you get older.

Is it harder to lose weight as you get older?

The research is pretty clear-cut on this one — weight loss challenges are pretty common as you get older. As we age, we lose muscle mass. This can slow down our metabolism, and over time, muscle gets replaced with body fat [1].

For women, normal hormonal changes like menopause can cause changes in body weight. Reduced levels of the hormone oestrogen can lead to fat storage around the waist, and weight gain in general [1].

For men, lower levels of testosterone can change fat distribution around the body and cause weight gain. All of these changes can usually start to show up from middle age onward [2].

But besides changing hormones and metabolism, what else makes it harder to keep the weight off as we get older?

5 reasons why weight loss becomes harder with age

Stress and life pressures

There's no question that stress can lead to significant weight gain. So why does our body change when we're stressed? Stress can affect our metabolism and how our body digests food, but it can also change our eating habits [3].

When we're stress eating, we might be more likely to crave things like sugary sweets or snacks with more calories. We can rely on comfort foods instead of eating a healthy diet or forget to eat altogether [4].

Stress can impact our motivation to exercise too — who feels like going for a run when their boss is sending passive-aggressive emails at 4:57 pm? All of the above factors can cause people to gain weight [4].

Moving around less

As we get older, we lose muscle mass and muscle strength. And let's be real — we definitely have more aches and pains in middle age than when we were young. All of this makes it harder to exercise, we burn fewer calories, and you guessed it: gain weight [5].

We also have a more sedentary lifestyle in general these days and we spend more time at our desks or on the couch than ever before. At the same time, we're busier than ever — our society is fast-paced, and time pressures make it hard to put exercise first. All of this makes weight gain pretty common among older adults [3].


We've touched on it already, but food intake has a big part to play in our average weight gain as we get older. Because of a slowing metabolism as we age, we often need to adjust how many calories we're eating throughout the day.

Here, the body's lower calorie needs can sometimes trip us up. The research suggests that if we're eating the same amount as when we were in our 20s, we'd need to exercise a lot more to control calories and lose weight [5].

Another interesting thing to consider is our hydration. Water intake has a big influence on our metabolism and digestion. According to some studies, if we're not hydrated enough our body can mistake thirst for hunger, which might throw off our weight loss efforts as we accidentally eat more [5].


Early on (think caveman times), it was an advantage for us to hold on to a bit of extra weight — in case food was scarce and we needed to make energy somehow.

Over time, we started getting chased by lions less, found more tools, and food became easier to find. Scientists believe this part of our evolution led to genes linked with obesity being passed down through the generations [3].

Studies now suggest that some people will find it harder to lose weight than others because of their genetics. Others might experience unintentional weight loss as they get older — everybody is different. It's important to know that genetics aren't everything: there are ways to reduce the influence they have on weight gain (like paying attention to healthy habits) [4].

Poor sleep

Research on how weight changes with age has found that sleep quality is super important to maintaining a healthy weight. People who have sleep problems, or who don't get 8 or more hours of quality sleep a night, are likely to weigh more than those who get enough quality sleep [4].

Also, when we're tired we're more likely to rely on caffeine, sugary drinks, or other calorie-rich beverages to give us energy — which can also cause accidental weight gain.

What are the risks of gaining weight as you get older?

All bodies are different, and we all age differently. The one thing medical professionals agree on is that your weight, how much weight you've gained since your 20s and your waist size can all have an influence on your health as you get older.

Weight gain in older adults can also increase the risk of health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Snoring and sleep apnea
  • Infertility
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • High blood pressure and stroke [4].

It isn't all scary news, though. Studies also suggest that losing weight doesn't need to be a massive transformation. If someone needs to lose weight for health reasons, even a 5% weight loss can be beneficial [4].

But if losing weight is harder in middle age, where do you get started?

4 weight loss tips for older adults

As with any weight loss or fitness plan, it's important to get the right advice first. This could include chatting to your GP or qualified health professional to figure out where to start and rule out any pre-existing health issues that need to be looked after.

Below are our top tips for losing weight as you get older:

1. Eat a healthy diet

Pay attention to your fruit and vegetable intake, and adjust calories where you need to. Remember this isn't about obsessing over every little detail or punishing yourself, but aiming for balance where you can.

Protein is always important, but can really help with weight loss as we age. Eating enough protein helps maintain muscle mass and muscle repair — and when we combine this with exercise, it can also lead to increased calorie burning [5].

It's also scientifically proven that crash diets do more harm than good — and don't really help with losing weight in the long run [1]. If you're unsure about where to start with making changes to your diet, chat to your GP or dietitian.

2. Stay active

We know that exercise works for weight loss, but it's arguably even more important as we get older. We mentioned before that we have less muscle mass as we get older, which equals a slower metabolism [5].

We can preserve muscle mass by doing weight and strength training — but it's important to be careful. Start light and slow, and always with an approved coach or instructor. Research shows that incorporating strength and resistance training into fitness plans can help significantly with weight loss [5].

3. Say it with us — self-care

We know you've heard it before, and we hope you're not rolling your eyes just yet. But given how stress is linked to weight gain, it's important to prioritise your needs.

Looking after your mental, emotional, physical, social, and even spiritual needs can help with maintaining a healthy weight. We don't mean the really twee (or exclusively bougie) self-care strategies that get thrown around online — something as simple as enjoying a cup of tea and a book, or discovering a new hobby can be great forms of self-care [4].

4. Get help when you need it

If you've been on a weight loss journey alone, but still feel far away from reaching your goals — we can help.

The Juniper Weight Reset Programme is made up of accredited medical advice and coaching with breakthrough weight loss medication to get you the best results, as well as an online community that can help you on your journey and encourage you to stay on track.

Whether you're already thinking about starting a new routine or just learning about your body, remember: it's not about being a certain size or shape. The goal is to feel comfortable, happy, and healthy.

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