Hormonal changes as we age can lead to extra weight around the middle. Stay healthy and fit with these tips.
Weight gain may feel like it’s inevitable once you’ve entered your middle years, but the truth is it doesn’t have to be. Natural hormonal changes mean you may start to notice symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, but you don’t need to idly accept that the number on the bathroom scale will steadily creep up, too.
Here’s what’s going on with your body if elastic-waist pants are now your go-to fashion staple: Weight distribution changes as you hit menopause, with the added pounds accumulating right around your belly. “I named the extra fat that collects around your middle the ‘menopot,’” says Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, author of Body for Life for Women.
Before, during, and after menopause, your estrogen levels begin to wane and your metabolism slows, making it more difficult for you to lose weight, particularly around your middle. And belly fat isn’t just annoying — it’s also unhealthy. Studies show it increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and perhaps even early death. Here, 10 ways to successfully fight the battle of the bulge:
1Exercise More Often, More Intensely to Counter Midlife Weight Gain
Start with a mix of moderate and vigorous exercise to burn off menopausal weight gain. Your routine should include aerobic exercises, like swimming, walking, bicycling, and running, as well as resistance or strength training. “What you want to employ now is high-intensity interval training (HIIT),” Dr. Peeke says. That means interspersing with high-intensity bursts with lower intensity activity during your workout.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, and two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all of the major muscle groups, like the legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms. If you take the HIIT approach, the CDC recommends that you should aim for an equivalent mix of moderate and high intensity exercise every week, along with those same two days of strength training.
“You’re not necessarily going to be at the same level as you were in your twenties, but you need to redefine normal,” says Peeke. “The normal now is a different metabolism profile, and the level of wiggle room has decreased. What you thought you got away with when you were 20 is not happening when you are 50. You have to get that right out of your brain.”
An increase in activities in your daily routine is the recipe for success, says Peeke. You don’t have to go to a gym, but you do need to do enough heavy lifting to keep your muscles strong and your metabolism revved. “Try activities that have you lifting, pushing, and pulling,” she says.