Our body is in a constant state of change! It’s experiencing greater entropy with each passing year, which affects us on various levels, especially our ideal body fat percentage.
I have always found body composition to be enigmatic, especially since the rules are in a constant state of flux because of our age.
All You Need to Know About Body Composition at Midlife
What Is Body Composition?
Our body composition relates to the proportion of varying compounds that we carry in our system. You can divide these into two major categories—fat and non-fat mass.
There are 4 different types of fat cells and they make up 3 areas of fat stores, the amounts of which differ depending on your body fat percentage.
Essential fats, for example, are essential to our survival since they:
- Protect vital internal organs.
- Enable the absorption of vitamins.
- Regulate hormones in our system at the right time.
We all need a certain amount of fat. Fat is not all bad but too much…
Subcutaneous fat is the stuff that is the most obvious assault on our vanity and discomfort. Lying under the skin as it does in various thicknesses it can also have a negative effect on our health being responsible for hormonal imbalance. But probably the worst form of stored fat is…
Visceral fat which tends to form around the middle but perhaps more dangerously around the body’s major organs. This is the type of stored fat that surgeons like the least. Too much visceral fat increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancer. Yes, all the normal but serious conditions.
Non-fat mass includes bones, organs, tissues, water and muscles. You need to maintain a healthy relationship between your fat and non-fat mass to have a healthy body composition.
What Is Body Fat Percentage?
Many modern scales can estimate your body fat percentage, which is the measurement used to better understand your body composition. Smart scales might not be that accurate but they can be a good indicator along with knowing your BMI (body mass index).
Your body fat percentage compares the amount of fat in your system against the rest of your mass to determine the percentage of your overall body fat. Without body fat scales you can get an estimate using this body fat calculator.
A healthy body is one that has a lower proportion of body fat, and you can measure this value against the total body mass.
Although lower is often better as a rule of thumb, having fat levels too low can be detrimental. This is why even though fats aren’t great for our system, the ideal amount isn’t 0%.
Even athletes have 6–13%, and anything under 2–5% could negatively affect your functioning.
Based on your body fat percentage, men and women belong to these following categories:
|Percentage for Men
|Percentage for Women
Data source: American Council on Exercise
The ideal body fat percentage, however, changes for both genders over time:
|Percentage for Men
|Percentage for Women
Data source: Winchester Hospital
Healthy Body Fat Percentage for Over 50’s Men and Women
The ideal body fat percentage for men and women over 50 is 11–21% for men and 23–33% for women. There are many reasons why this ideal percentage changes with time, though.
You may think that you’re done growing after you hit your 20’s, but our bodies never really settle down. With each passing decade from your 20’s, you gain 1–3% of fat, but you also roughly lose 2% of bone mass during this period.
This means that by the time you’re 50, you’ll likely have a much higher fat percentage than you did during those glorious 20’s. This value tends to inflate or deflate based on how much care you’ve taken of your body, but you can usually expect your fat percentage to be higher than it was in your 20’s.
Dangers of High Body Fat Percentage After 50
Having an unhealthy body fat percentage is always dangerous, but it becomes much more so during your latter years and is far more harmful for men.
Your body is susceptible to a wide range of issues at that age due to the high body fat percentage, which includes various chronic diseases, heart diseases and diabetes.
In particular, heart diseases are highly deadly as they claim more lives in the United States than any other illness. This illness is usually developed by maintaining a poor diet over several years and consuming unhealthy fats.
Maintaining a Healthy Body Fat Percentage
There are two things to maintain the ideal body fat percentage after 50:
- Eating healthy.
- Getting enough exercise.
No surprises there!
Eating healthy involves consuming whole foods that aren’t processed and contain no chemical additives like emulsifiers, preservatives or sweeteners. This includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and meats.
Exercising is a great way to keep the fat percentage down and improve your overall health and wellbeing. Strength training twice a week helps shed weight and speed metabolism in any age group and is especially known to help older women improve their body image and promote wellness and healthy habits.
There is a whole load of issues for those of us into “middle age” which we have partly covered in our article on life after 50.
The Right Percent-Age
It feels like as we age, our bodies start turning into a comedy of errors! Even though 50 is the new 40, and 40 is the new 30, it looks like someone forgot to inform our bodies about the new social norms.
Fortunately, there’s enough information out there to help us catch up with our aging systems’ needs and prepare it for the fun experience of being a 50-year-old in the 21st century. Paying attention to our body composition is a great way of keeping a check on what makes us who we are.
Hitting that healthy ideal body weight percentage and sustaining it might not be as easy as we would like but I’m sure you’re up for it knowing what’s at stake! After all, 60 is the new 50, 70 is the new 60 and you don’t want to be underprepared for that!