Menopause weight gain is real not imagined.
Weight gain and menopause problems can start to occur during perimenopause when female hormones begin to decline, around 10 years before the final period. Menopause typically occurs between ages 45 and 55 years. The average age of menopause in western countries is 51 years.
Fortunately menopause weight gain isn’t inevitable – you can overcome menopause weight gain with appropriate exercise to get your body back into shape, and improve your health and fitness too.
Read on to learn how overcome menopause weight gain with exercise:
- What causes weight gain and menopause?
- Best exercise guidelines to overcome menopause weight gain; and
- Expert exercise tips to boost weight loss and trim your waistline.
What Causes Menopause Weight Gain?
Decreased oestrogen is usually the underlying cause of menopause weight gain. Understanding the effect of decreased oestrogen helps us to understand how best to exercise to overcome menopause weight gain.
Decreased oestrogen causes:
- Decreased lean muscle – and muscle burns up fat!
- Slowed metabolic rate so that less energy is burned up at rest; and
- Body fat to shift from the hips to the waist making the abdomen rounder and the waist thicker.
How to Exercise and Overcome Menopause Weight Gain
To decrease body fat we need to burn more energy than we consume, increase our metabolic rate and increase our muscle mass. You will lose and manage weight most effectively with exercise using the following evicence-based exercise guidelines.
1. Choose the best exercises for weight management
Weight loss exercises for menopause should be safe for your joints and your pelvic floor. The most effective fat burning exercises involve the large leg muscles which burn the most energy during and after exercise. Remember that high impact fitness exercises such as running can wreak havoc with your pelvic floor, especially during menopause.
Best and safest menopause weight loss exercise include:
- Brisk walking;
- Gym equipment – cross trainer, stationary bike, treadmill, rowing, stair climbing; and
- Appropriate strength or resistance training exercise for women.
2. Exercise at the best intensity for weight loss
High intensity exercise – the recent research1 tells us that best weight loss exercise intensity is alternating high and low intensity exercise over short time intervals for 20 minutes. This exercise intensity has been shown to be more effective exercise for weight loss than prolonged moderate intensity exercise2.
High intensity exercise means exercising at a level where you are working vigorously, your heart rate is elevated and breathing is rapid. You won’t be able to carry on a conversation during high intensity exercise.
3. Exercise for the appropriate duration for weight loss exercise
If you can’t exercise at high intensity, then try to increase the duration of your workout. The ACSM3 recommends that for weight management, moderate intensity exercise should be performed up to 3.3 – 5 hours per week. This is approximately 40-60 minutes per day, 5 days of the week.
Moderate intensity exercise noticeably raises your heart rate and breathing but allows you to carry on a conversation.
4. Exercise at the best frequency for menopause weight loss
If you are able to exercise at high intensity, research tells us 3 days of high intensity exercises per week will promote weight loss from the abdomen and reduce waist measures.
Alternatively if you choose to exercise at a moderate level of intensity, then try to exercise for up to one hour a day, 5 days of the week. It is a case of the more often you exercise, the more energy you will burn up.
Menopause Weight Loss Tips for Exercise
- Include strength exercises in your weekly workout – resistance exercises increase lean muscle and muscle burns fat.
- Mix up your workouts whenever you can – try to vary the type of exercises you do every day to optimize fat burning with exercise.
- Weights before walk – if you perform resistance (strength) exercises, do your weights before your fitness workout to more effectively burn fat.
- Fasting exercise burns fat – if you eat or consume energy drinks immediately before exercising, then your body will use this energy first for your workout. If you are able to exercise without eating for 2 hours beforehand, and drink water as opposed to high sugar drinks – then your body will need to eat into your fat reserves for the energy to exercise.
- Green tea before exercise – there is some suggestion from research that drinking green tea before exercise may promote weight loss. Watch this space for this research due to be released in the near future.
Menopause Weight Gain and Your Pelvic Floor
A final important word on the importance of pelvic floor safe exercises with menopause.
Carrying extra body weight places added burden on your pelvic floor. During menopause your pelvic floor is likely to become thin, floppy and weak as a result of decreased oestrogen. Extra body weight increases the load upon the vulnerable pelvic floor during and after menopause making pelvic floor problems worse.
What this means is that exercise for menopause weight gain needs to be appropriate for weight loss and for the pelvic floor. Try to avoid becoming one of the many mature aged women who inadvertently worsen their pelvic floor problems with exercise that is inappropriate for their pelvic floor.
1M. Heydari, J. Freund, and S.H. Boutcher, “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males,” Journal of Obesity, vol. 2012, Article ID 480467, 8 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/480467
2D.J. Chisholm, J. Freund and S.H. Boutcher “The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting levels of young women” International Journal of Obesity (2008) vol 32, no. 4, pp. 684-691.
3 American College of Sports Medicine (2001) Position Stand. Appropriate intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise 33:2145-2156.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway
Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Inside Out – the Essential Women’s Guide to Pelvic Support. The Inside Out exercise DVD and book show women how to strengthen the pelvic floor and exercise effectively with pelvic floor safe exercises.