Kittle: Don’t let menopause cause weight gain

Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can minimize adding on unwanted pounds due to menopause.

  • Aug. 2, 2014 10:00 a.m.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge for most these days. The older we get, the more difficult it can be.

Studies have shown that 90 per cent of women experience weight gain between the ages of 35 and 55, not coincidentally during perimenopause and menopause.

The hormonal changes of menopause might make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than around your hips and thighs. Hormonal changes alone don’t necessarily trigger menopause weight gain, however.

Instead, the weight gain is usually related to genetics, aging, as well as lifestyle .Therefore nutrition, and exercise become critical elements to maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding the middle age spread and belly fat

What causes menopause weight gain?

According to the Mayo Clinic, hormones and weight gain are closely related. If your hormones are not balanced, you can gain weight, especially with too much cortisol or too little progesterone, testosterone or estrogen.

Hormone fluctuations in perimenopause and menopause directly impact your appetite, fat storage and metabolism.

It’s common for estrogen levels to diminish during menopause causing cessation of ovulation. The decreased production of estrogen by the ovaries causes a woman’s body to search for other sources of estrogen.

Another source of estrogen is fat cells, so your body learns to convert more calories into fat, in order to increase estrogen production. This means weight gain.

It’s also common for progesterone levels to decrease during menopause. Progesterone’s role in weight gain is more deceiving; low levels of the hormone do not actually cause you to gain weight, but instead cause water retention or bloating. This annoying side effect makes you feel heavier and makes your clothes fit tighter.

Testosterone in a women works to build and maintain muscle mass among other things. These muscle cells work to burn calories in your body and cause a higher metabolism.

Levels of this hormone decrease during menopause causing the loss of muscle mass and hence result in lower metabolism. This also results in weight gain.

Insulin resistance and stress are also responsible for a woman’s difficulty or inability to experience weight loss during menopause. Insulin resistance occurs when a woman’s body incorrectly converts every calorie into fat; this is an extreme case of estrogen correction. Over time, your body resists the insulin produced in your blood stream and you therefore experience weight gain.

Genetics also play a role in menopause weight gain. If your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you’re likely to do the same

As we get older our muscle mass diminishes, while our fat increases. Loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories, which can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight.

If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re likely to gain weight.

But take heart, don’t be discouraged. Weight gain is not inevitable!

You can take charge and reverse the course by paying attention to eating a healthy diet and stepping it up with appropriate exercises to kick start your metabolism and burn fat.

The exercise program for perimenopause and postmenopausal women should include aerobic exercise, strength training and balance exercises to build strength and maintain muscle and bone mass it is important to be aware of target heart rate range and should track the intensity of exercise for optimal results.

Research indicates that postmenopausal women, who engage in the comprehensive exercise program, benefit by maintaining a healthy body, bone density levels and good mental health.

Osteoporosis, the greatest ailment in older women, can be kept under control with exercise.

Even a moderate exercise schedule can not only keep the weight in check, but it also lowers the risk of stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which tend to show up liberally during and beyond menopause.

For more information on a specialized menopause fitness program, please contact Pursuit Fitness at 250-317-3508 or email bobbi@pursuitfitness.ca.

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