Exercise Not Working Like It Used To? Menopause May Be To Blame
You are sticking to your exercise plan and are also eating the same foods. And yet, you're gaining weight, mostly around the middle. You may have developed new lumps and bumps of fat where there were none before. Nothing is more frustrating or confusing than working to stay fit but not seeing the results. If you are a woman over 45 years old, then it might be time to refresh your workout and diet to account for the hormone changes associated with perimenopause or menopause. Here’s the best advice from our team of menopause experts on how to tackle weight gain, exercise, and diet.
Midlife Metabolic Changes and Weight Gain
Menopausal women often gain weight, especially in their abdominal area. Increased belly fat is particularly troublesome because it impairs your body's ability to process starches and regulate blood sugar. The metabolic rate slows in midlife, which means you burn fewer calories even with the same activity level. While no one wants to hear it (and believe me I wish I didn’t have to say it), women will need to make significant changes in order to maintain weight. I lovingly tell my patients they will need to work 20% harder to achieve 80% of the results they used to see.
Other Weight Gain Factors
During menopause, your body experiences other changes that make it easy to gain weight. Even if you are in excellent shape, your body will begin to lose lean muscle mass. Both men and women experience this muscle loss, but it happens more quickly for women. This change means that you will burn fewer calories even if you maintain the same activity level. Since many people also become less active at this age, they burn even fewer calories each day.
Women often experience sleep difficulties and stress, which also plays a role in weight gain.
The combination of all these factors means that many women see a significant increase in their weight and body fat percentage during this time period. These changes account for the fact that women on average, women experience a 1.5 pound weight gain each year once they enter their 50s and continue that rate throughout their 60s.
Now that you know what’s going on, here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to prevent or combat weight gain, maintain muscle tone, and continue to look and feel your best!
You may be tempted to double up on your exercise to fight this weight gain, but experts warn this is not the best approach. Exercising twice as long will not get you the results you desire. Instead, you should still shoot for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise five or more days a week and add weight training.
Weight Training Benefits
Weight training provides a number of benefits to those 50 and up. Over the course of your life, you can expect to lose between 30-40% of your muscle mass, with the process accelerating in your 50s. Weight training, even with relatively light weights and basic muscle-building moves, can help you build back some of that mass and allow you to continue your usual activities well into your 80s.
In addition to building muscle mass, weight training builds stronger bones. Post-menopausal women are prone to losing bone density, which leaves them vulnerable to fractures. Incorporating weight training into your life will help protect you from these incapacitating injuries.
Weight training can help you decrease body fat as well as fight the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, back pain and more. Weight training can also improve your self-esteem and sense of well-being. It's an excellent depression fighter.
Weight Training Options
You can pursue weight training in a number of ways. Workout at home, take a class or invest in a personal trainer. Weight training exercises include squats, lunges, bicep curls, crunches, planks and weight lifting. You can purchase inexpensive weights to use with your workouts, beginning with a few pounds and increasing the amount as your strength improves. Before beginning weight training, consult with your primary care physician.
Cardio is an important part of your menopausal exercise program, so continue taking brisk walks, running in the park, using the elliptical, or taking a dance class. Doing so will help you maintain your weight and also keep your heart and mind healthy.
Menopause and Diet
Building muscle will help you increase your metabolism, but you won't manage your weight by working out alone. You need to combine your exercise with a healthy diet, one lower in calories than what you've been consuming. As your body ages, you have to adjust your diet to mesh with your metabolism.
Once you turn 50, you should consume around 200 calories less than you did at age 20 - assuming that your activity level is the same as it was. If not, you may need to reduce your caloric intake by a larger amount. If you ate 2000 calories per day at 20, you need 1800 or less at 50 to maintain your weight.
Drastic diet plans are not advisable, no matter your age. In particular, menopausal women will thrive with t a balanced diet. You can’t fight menopause with an extreme diet; approach these changes as a new lifestyle that will help you improve and maintain your health for decades.
Benefits of Weight Loss
Everyone wants to maintain an attractive appearance no matter their age. In fact, there are plenty of women over 50 who look great in a bikini. You can look amazing at any age if you work at it. Just consider Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Brooke Shields, Selma Hayek, and Demi Moore. Plus, your self-esteem will benefit from feeling strong and toned.
Most importantly, fighting that menopausal weight gain will protect your health. Abdominal fat is closely associated with serious medical conditions, particularly heart disease ––the number one cause of death for women. When you reduce your body fat, you benefit your entire cardiovascular system. You also lower your risk for other conditions such as stroke Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers that are tied to excess body fat.
Don't buy into the menopausal myth that you keep quiet about the changes happening to your body and that it’s best to just accept these changes because there isn’t anything you can do to improve things.. You can take control of your diet with simple changes. You can find news ways to revive your exercise regimen. If you make lifestyle adjustments, you can end up looking and feeling better than you have in years. Interested in learning more about how treating menopausal symptoms may help with weight management? Book an appointment.