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Menopause, Weight Gain, and Exercise Tips

Menopause and weight gain: Do they always have to go hand in hand? It may seem that way, especially because gaining weight is so common after menopause. About 30% of women ages 50 to 59 are not just overweight, but obese. Here's what you need to know about the risks of weight gain and how exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off after menopause.

The Risks of Weight Gain After Menopause

Many of the risks of weight gain are well known: high blood pressureheart disease, and diabetes, to name a few. Extra fat at your waistline raises these risks more. Unfortunately, a bigger waistline is more likely after menopause. If you now have a waist measurement of more than 35 inches, it's time to take steps to reverse this trend.

Why Weight Gain Often Happens After Menopause

What is it about menopause that makes it so hard to keep off the weight? It's likely a mix of factors related to menopause and aging.

The impact of estrogen. In animal studies, estrogen appears to help control body weight. With lower estrogen levels, lab animals tend to eat more and be less physically active. Reduced estrogen may also lower metabolic rate, the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy. It's possible the same thing happens with women when estrogen levels drop after menopause. Some evidence suggests that estrogen hormone therapy increases a woman's resting metabolic rate. This might help slow weight gain. Lack of estrogen may also cause the body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which would increase fat storage and make it harder to lose weight.  

Other age-related factors. As women age, many other changes happen that contribute to weight gain. For example:

  • You're less likely to exercise. Sixty percent of adults aren't active enough, and this increases with age.
  • You lose muscle mass, which lowers your resting metabolism, making it easier to gain weight.
  • The rate at which you can use up energy during exercise declines. To use the same energy as in the past and achieve weight loss, you may need to increase the amount of time and intensity you're exercising, no matter what your past activity levels were.

How Exercise Helps With Weight After Menopause

The more active you are, the less weight you're likely to gain. A National Institutes of Health review showed that people who did aerobic activities every day for 10 or more minutes had 6 fewer inches around the waistline compared to people who didn't exercise. And exercising while you're in the process of losing weight -- as well as after you've lost it -- may be critical to maintaining weight loss.

Other Benefits of Exercise After Menopause

Exercise has many other perks aside from weight loss, including:

  • Lower risk of osteoporosis
  • Lower risks of metabolic syndromeheart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases
  • Improved insulin resistance
  • Keeps joints and muscles strong
  • Helps bowels work well
  • Relieves depression and anxiety
  • Improves overall health

WebMD Medical Reference

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