Most menopausal women can expect to see some weight gain, especially around the waist. Not all weight gain is a threat to your health, but gaining too much weight can tax your body and lead to hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. A larger waistline raises these risks even more.
With the help of your medical professionals and some lifestyle changes on your part, you should be able to manage your weight and stay healthy through menopause.
What Causes Weight Gain During Menopause?
There are several reasons why weight gain is so ubiquitous among menopausal women. The first reason is the impact of estrogen. Estrogen aids in controlling weight and metabolism. When a woman’s body slows production of estrogen, it lowers her metabolic rate, the rate at which stored energy (fat) is converted into working energy.
Another reason is a lack of physical activity. Older adults are less likely to exercise as they age. This also causes the loss of muscle mass, which in turn slows metabolic rate.
Even if you are an active adult, the slowing of your metabolic rate means you probably will need to increase the time and possibly the intensity of your exercise routine in order to achieve the same weight management you had before menopause. This is not that different from what our male counterparts go through as they age when their testosterone levels drop.
Exercise During Menopause
Exercise has so many health benefits. The more active you are, the less weight you’re likely to gain. Exercise is one of the most effective ways to
- Manage your weight
- Retain bone density, lowering risks of osteoporosis
- Relieve mood issues and depression
- Reduce your odds of having a heart attack
- Lower the risks of cardiovascular disease
- Improve insulin resistance
- Lower chances of developing type II diabetes
- Strengthen your muscles and joints
- Increase sexual health
- and the list goes on and on.
Exercise can make a measurable difference in your life. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that people who did only 10 minutes of aerobic activity every day had waistlines an average of six inches smaller than people who didn’t exercise at all.
If you’re not an active person, transitioning into a daily exercise routine might sound exhausting at first, but you’ll start to feel much better within a few weeks.
What Kinds of Exercise Should I Do?
There are two main types of exercise, and menopausal women should try to get both to reap the most health benefits.
You’ll want to adopt a weight-resistance exercise program to rebuild lost muscle mass, increase your metabolic rate, and maintain bone mass. There are many types of strength training – most people picture weight lifting with dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance machines. You can also strength train with elastic bands, yoga, or Pilates classes, to name a few.
Aerobic exercises work your heart and lungs and increase your cardiovascular health. I almost always recommend low-impact activities for beginners, those returning to exercise after being away, and seniors, to reduce the stress on the body and the risk of injury. Swimming, biking, walking, and dancing are all great choices and you can enjoy them alone or with a partner.
Before you start, please talk to your doctor about your exercise routine.
Here are some tips that can help you stick with an exercise routine and minimize injuries:
- Partner up with a spouse, friend, or family member to stay motivated.
- Buy new shoes that will support your feet during your workouts.
- Warm up for at least 10 minutes before rigorous exercise. This includes stretching your muscles before you begin to reduce the chance of soreness and injury.
- Find a routine that works for you, that you enjoy. If you get bored with your routine, mix it up and add a new activity.
- Pay attention to your diet. Eat whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and veggies. Limit alcohol consumption (i.e. moderation) as it adds empty calories to your diet. Lastly, eat smaller portions more often throughout the day and avoid eating late at night.