If you are post menopausal or peri menopausal you may have noticed that you have gained at least a few unwanted pounds. Exercise should be part of a strategy for dealing with menopause weight gain.
Why does weight gain occur?
I’ve discussed this in depth in this article, but here are the main reasons:
- Hormones. Estrogen and progesterone have helped to prevent weight gain before menopause. After menopause you no longer have that protection. Other hormones which have an effect on weight like cortisol and insulin also change.
- Slowing metabolism. You metabolism naturally slows as you age which means you can’t eat as much as you did before unless you make other changes to your lifestyle.
- Less activity. Most women seem to get less activity as they get older. This can be because of low energy or just because of changes to lifestyle.
- Changes in gut bacteria. The changes in hormones also change your gut bacteria. These changes have been shown to lead to weight gain.
- Stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are common symptoms of menopause. They are also associated with weight gain for various reasons.
How does exercise help?
Exercise shouldn’t be the main focus of your weight loss program, but it is definitely an important component for weight maintenance. Exercise has so many health benefits, that it should be done for these benefits alone. The fact that it helps prevent weight gain is a bonus.
Exercisers have been shown to have better weight maintenance than non exercisers. One study on menopausal women looked at dietary interventions, exercise interventions and a combined intervention for weight loss. The combined (diet and exercise) lost the most weight, but the group that only exercised were able to lose a few pounds, showing that exercise alone can be considered an effective method for weight maintenance. Other studies have shown that once women lost weight, those that exercised were able to maintain it.
It is not surprising that exercise helps since it has been shown to help with every one the reasons above.
- Exercise helps to keep hormones including estrogen, insulin, and cortisol in balance. These all can contribute to weight gain when out of balance.
- It also helps to reduce resistance to the satiety hormone leptin.
- Exercise speeds your metabolism. If you don’t exercise your muscle mass declines with age. It also helps to maintain muscle mass which helps to stop a slowing metabolism.
- Exercise is activity so that helps to counter the lack of activity that is seen in many post menopausal women. Exercise, in the right dose, also helps to energize you so you are more likely to want to be more active. It’s something that feeds on itself, but in a good way.
What types of exercise are best for menopause weight loss?
The best type of exercise is the exercise that you do and that you do consistently. Each type of exercise has some benefits. Varying the types of exercise you do helps to combat boredom and also helps you to find the types of exercise you like the most.
- Resistance training helps with fat loss. It helps by adding muscle which helps to increase your metabolism. It also helps with hormone balance, especially estrogen and insulin, but the hormonal response depends on the intensity, the number of repetitions per set and the rest periods used.
- Moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise help to maintain a calorie balance. It also helps to maintain energy levels and balance mood swings which may be preventing activity. It can be a positive or negative feedback loop depending on how you approach it. Moderate intensity cardio can also lower stress levels which also prevents weight gain.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) helps to increase metabolism even after the workout is completed. It also improves your cardiovascular fitness which means better energy levels. This is also associated with improved gut health. Just make sure you don’t exercise right after eating.
- Low intensity exercise like walking and yoga have surprising benefits. If you are active throughout the day it keeps your metabolism higher than if you are sedentary. These activities can also reduce stress levels and help maintain weight by keeping stress hormones in balance.
Whichever exercise you choose, you will see benefits. Exercise in general helps to reduce stress, keep hormones in balance, speed metabolism and increase energy. Download my workout and cardio log to see how it can help you.