Losing weight after the menopause
Gaining weight is common for women around menopause, often due to hormone changes.
Weight gain increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
However, there are steps that can be taken to help manage weight around the menopause.
Why weight gain often occurs after menopause
What is it about menopause that makes it so challenging to keep off the weight? It is likely to be a combination of factors related to menopause and ageing.
The impact of oestrogen. In animal studies, oestrogen appears to help regulate body weight. With lower oestrogen levels, laboratory animals tend to eat more and be less physically active. Reduced oestrogen may also lower metabolic rate - the rate at which the body converts stored energy into working energy. It is possible the same thing happens with women when oestrogen levels decrease after menopause. In fact, some evidence suggests that oestrogen hormone therapy increases a woman's resting metabolic rate. This might help slow weight gain.
Other age-related factors. As women age, many other changes occur that contribute to weight gain. For example:
- You are less likely to exercise. Research suggests that many adults spend more than seven hours a day sitting down, at work, on transport or in their leisure time.
- You lose muscle mass, which decreases your resting metabolism, making it easier to gain weight.
- Your aerobic capacity declines. This is the rate at which you can use up energy during exercise. To use the same energy as in the past and achieve weight loss, you may need to increase the amount of time you're exercising, no matter what your past activity levels were.
How exercise helps with weight after menopause
Exercise is effective at influencing your levels of total body fat and abdominal fat. The more active you are, the less weight you are likely to gain. Spending hours sitting down watching TV or playing computer games is believed to increase your risk of many chronic diseases, as well as weight gain and obesity. A US study showed that people who participated in aerobic activities every day for 10 or more minutes had six fewer inches around the waistline compared to people who did not 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
It's also good to remember that exercise has many benefits apart from weight loss and fitness. The list of exercise benefits is too long to include, but here are a few benefits that are especially helpful after menopause. Exercise helps: