Weight gain during menopause: the best exercise advice

Menopause is often linked to hot flashes, missed periods and vaginal dryness. Women entering the period of menopause also have to deal with weight gain. Whether you’re 15 or 50, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. But weight gain during menopause is something that can be difficult to combat, given that there are so many reasons behind all that fat. But do not be discouraged, because you can lose weight. All you need is a list of exercises that can help you fight weight gain during menopause.

Health Shots reached out to Dr. Teji Dawane, Senior Consultant, Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Whitefield, Bengaluru, and Mumbai-based celebrity trainer and athlete, Rohit Nair, to explore the relationship between menopause and weight.

Weight gain during menopause is quite common. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Causes of weight gain during menopause

Weight gain during menopause is a common effect that occurs due to various factors. These factors include:

1. Hormonal changes

During menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone drops significantly. Estrogen plays a key role in regulating body fat, and decreasing this hormone leads to increased abdominal fat, says Dr. Dawane. This change in fat distribution may contribute to weight gain in women during menopause.

2. Metabolism

As we age, it is completely normal and natural for the metabolism to slow down. This reduced metabolic rate means that the body burns fewer calories at rest, which facilitates weight gain.

3. Muscle mass

As women age, there is a gradual loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, which means that muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. Decreased muscle mass may therefore further contribute to a reduced metabolic rate and weight gain, says Dr. Dawane.

4. Insulin resistance

It is possible for women to become more resistant to insulin during menopause, which would lead to higher blood sugar levels. They are more likely to store excess calories as fat.

5. Lifestyle Changes

Menopause is often accompanied by major life changes, such as retirement, the departure of children or increased stress. These changes can influence eating habits and physical activity levels, leading to weight gain.

6. Emotional factors

Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can also impact mood and emotions, leading to emotional eating and, therefore, weight gain.

Dr Dawane says weight gain during menopause, especially when accompanied by increased abdominal fat, is linked to a higher risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. And that’s why weight loss is important for women going through menopause.

You need to lose the weight gained during menopause. Image provided by: Shutterstock

Tips for losing weight during menopause

Losing weight during menopause can be difficult, but a combination of regular exercise and a balanced diet can help, says Nair. Here’s what you can do to shed the extra pounds:

1. Cardiovascular exercises

Keep busy with activities that can raise your heart rate. So you can go jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming or even dancing. Cardio workouts help burn calories and improve overall cardiovascular health.

2. Strength training

Do exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups to build muscle mass. Increasing muscle mass is good for you because it can help boost metabolism and burn more calories, even at rest.

3. Pilate

Pilates focuses on core strength and stability, which can help improve posture, balance and tone muscles, says Nair.

Exercises to avoid during menopause

During menopause, you might not only experience some physical changes, but also health issues. This could make some exercises less suitable or potentially risky. Here are some exercises that women should consider avoiding or modifying during menopause:

1. High Impact Exercises

Activities like running or jumping can put excessive pressure on the joints, which can lead to an increased risk of injury or exacerbate joint problems that can be common during menopause.

2. Lift heavy weights

While strength training is beneficial, heavy lifting without proper form and supervision can put a strain on the joints and increase the risk of injury, especially if there are joint or bone health issues, says Nair. .

3. Extreme or intense workouts

Doing too much high-intensity exercise or pushing the body too hard can lead to high cortisol levels, which can interfere with hormonal balance during menopause.

4. Exercise in extreme temperatures

During menopause, women may experience hot flashes and increased sensitivity to temperature changes. Exercising in extreme heat can make these symptoms worse and potentially lead to dehydration.

5. Abdominal crunches or sit-ups

Some women may experience pelvic floor weakness during menopause, and traditional abdominal exercises like sit-ups can put extra pressure on the pelvic area, potentially worsening pelvic floor problems.

While choosing the right exercise for weight loss, remember to eat healthy.

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