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Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?

Are you doomed to “middle age spread”?  Is weight gain a part of the aging process and something to be accepted?  Are age-related hormonal changes the cause of middle age or menopausal weight gain?  According to a study in the American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal, the answer to all those questions is NO.

While it is true that as we age our metabolism does slow down with each passing decade after the age of 25, however, this is more lifestyle related than age related.  At the end of the day, it all comes down to diet and exercise.  Muscle is metabolic and keeps your metabolism elevated.  The best way to preserve muscle mass is with weight bearing exercise along with proper nutrition.

If you are not exercising and taking in more energy (calories) than you use, this will put you in a positive energy balance, which means, weight gain.  Unfortunately, as people get older, they become more and more sedentary.  When it comes to preserving muscle mass, the old saying “Use it or Lose It” applies.  When you don’t exercise your muscles, they atrophy which slows down your metabolism.  Couple that with a diet high in processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats,  you will gain weight.

If you are peri-menopausal, menopausal or post menopausal, it’s not too late to start exercising and improving your diet to reverse the effects of weight gain.  Here is the ACSM’s position on the benefits of resistance training

The ACSM Position Stand notes that resistance training when combined with an aerobic exercise program has the potential to increase loss of fat mass (2). Although resistance training alone has not been found to promote significant weight loss (2), it provides many other health benefits (e.g., improving bone health and lessening the physiological stresses of activities of daily living) (1). Considering the loss of muscle that occurs with aging, women should consider the addition of resistance training to their physical activity program. Typical recommendations for resistance training include 2 to 3 days per week with at least 48 hours between training sessions for a given muscle group (1). For healthy adults, 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions with rest intervals of 2 to 3 minutes will improve fitness; for older (≥65 years of age) or younger adults (50 to 65 years of age) who are very deconditioned, one or more sets of 10 to 15 repetitions are recommended (1).

Not only can diet and exercise help you lose weight and feel better, if you are going through menopause, exercise can help alleviate or lessen hot flashes and also help preserve bone density.

A certified fitness professional can help get you started with a safe and effective exercise program as well as show you how to correctly perform various exercises as well as give you the information you need to get started on a nutrition plan or refer you to a Nutritionist.

Source – American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal

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