I hear it all the time and often with an exasperated tone. How can I get rid of “this”? The “this” being reflective of an expanding waist line resulting in a 5, 10, or even 15 pound weight gain! Mysterious? Unexplainable? In short, no. As women age, there are subtle and later more dramatic hormonal changes that signify the onset of the perimenopausal and menopausal years. Additionally, the loss of muscle (atrophy) over time challenges a woman’s ability to maintain her strength and optimal function. A woman can lose approximately 5-7 percent of her muscle mass every decade that she ages. One crucial consequence of muscle atrophy is a decrease in metabolism resulting in weight gain.
In her younger years, fat is usually concentrated in the hips, thighs and buttocks to support childbirth and breastfeeding. However, with aging comes the fluctuation and then steady decline of a hormone called estrogen. As estrogen production decreases, much of the fat in the hip and thigh areas redistribute to the belly resulting in an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
What’s a gal to do? Get up and get moving but make sure you have your doctor’s ok before you get started. Focus on muscle building exercises as well as any exercise that raises your heart rate. Work up to 20-30 minutes of moderate activity per session. Your workout should include a five minute warm up followed by exercises that may include simple bodyweight exercises and ending with a five minute cool down. As you progress, challenge yourself by adding weights to your strength program and continuing to elevate your heart rate. A sample routine may look like this:
- Warm Up with Heel & Ankle Toe Taps, Long Steps, Knee Lifts
- Bodyweight Squat to a Chair (12-15 repetitions)
- Forward Lean/Deadlift (12-15 repetitions)
- Push Motion (12-15 repetitions)
- Pull Motion (12-15 repetitions)
- Side Shuffle Left/Side Shuffle Right (30 seconds)
- Cool Down
Perform these exercises 3-5 times per week to see the best results.
When you integrate a consistent and well rounded exercise program, you’ll be better equipped to counteract the physical consequences of the natural aging process. You’ll also improve your metabolism, strength, endurance and bone health while decreasing your risk of disease.
Being active should be fun. Your exercise routine does not have to take place in a gym. Get creative and go to a nearby park, workout in your backyard or even in your living room. Whether you have equipment such as resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells or no weights at all, there is no excuse! It’s time to get fit and build an even better version of you.
Coming up next! In part 2, we’ll take a closer look at men, metabolism and weight gain!
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