Knowledge is power: The ABCs of BMRs
By Jeff White

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Does it seem that the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight, maintain your strength or simply stay in shape, no matter how hard you try?

You're not imagining things. Your body is going through changes. Father Time waits for no one, and that includes our bodies. Like it or not, our bodies will make changes with or without our permission. But that doesn't mean we can't lessen the effects of those changes.


Which has a bigger effect on the body?
  • 1. Amount of exercise
  • 2. Natural metabolism
  • 3. Food/nutrition

As we get older, we tend to have more responsibilities. We start raising families. We work longer hours to keep food on the table and to pay for our kid's college educations. Instead of working at the mall on our feet all day like when we were teenagers, we might have a desk job where we sit 6-8 hours a day. Exercise tends to take a back burner to the more "important" things in life. These lifestyle changes — in addition to a naturally slowing metabolism and loss of muscle tone — can cause drastic changes in our bodies before we know it.

In simple terms, we all use energy, even while sleeping. This energy is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This drops by 2 percent for every decade of your life. In other words, if you eat the exact same amount of food you ate 10 years ago and you still gained weight, it's because your BMR has slowed down a bit.

Also, you lose 7 pounds of lean body mass with every decade, which is replaced by fat.

As a result of aging, what's considered a normal body fat percentage tends to increase as we age. This is one of many body fat charts out there.

Our metabolism slows down over time, and our bodies change accordingly. This is perfectly normal and nothing to be alarmed about. The key is to understand that these changes do occur and how to prepare for them as the years go by.

A healthy diet, exercise, adequate rest, minimizing stress, etc., are essential to maintaining good health and staying youthful. But don't become obsessed with regaining the body you had when you were 20. It may not be realistic for a 50-year-old to have the speed agility, strength and body of a 20-year-old. Not to mention trying to attain that lofty goal might be discouraging if you don't see the results you hoped for, or even worse, getting injured while trying to get there.

How old are you? Male or female? What's your body fat percentage? If you don't know what it is, find out. These are the questions you should ask yourself, because these key factors determine what is the ideal measurement for you, not the model you see in Men's Health or the Victoria's Secret catalog.

Yes, our BMRs are slowing down, but that doesn't mean we have to take it lying down. Not happy with what you see in the mirror? "Do something everyday, anything, that will get you closer to your goals," says Susan Campbell. Find your ideal body fat percentage from the chart above or use another chart of your liking. You may not be 20 anymore, but you can still be fit and fabulous at 40, 50 or 60. Just because your BMR is slowing down means you have to stop.

Knowledge is power.

Jeff White is certified personal trainer and yoga instructor with the American Fitness Professionals and Associates. Jeff has been actively involved in the fitness lifestyle for more than 25 years, competing in triathlons for for the past 15, and he can be found at JW Fitness Solutions.