The myriad of unfortunate symptoms that arrive with the onset of menopause have been well documented – hot flushes, mood swings, insomnia, memory problems, low libido and of course, weight gain. But according to new research from Monash University, we can scratch that last one off the list; menopause does not cause weight gain.
What the research shows
In a recent study published in the International Menopause Society’s journal, Climacteric, Monash University researchers found that post-menopausal weight gain was not linked to hormonal changes. However, the falling oestrogen levels in women experiencing menopause changes the way their bodies store fat, meaning any weight gain occurs around the abdomen, rather than the hips.
Led by Professor Susan Davis, the study compared women who go through early or late menopause to those who go through menopause normally. They found in all women the weight gain occurred at the same age, showing menopause itself was not the cause.
The real cause of the middle-aged spread
“It is really just a consequence of environmental factors and ageing which cause the weight gain. But there’s no doubt the new spare tyre many women complain of after menopause is real,” Professor Davis said. “What this translates to in real terms is that women going through menopause should begin to try to control their weight before it becomes a problem.”
The reason we gain weight once we pass our 50th birthday is because our muscle mass gradually begins to decrease. The less muscle mass we have, the slower our metabolism works and the less efficiently our bodies are able to use the energy we consume, leading to extra fatty deposits around the middle.
How to stop weight gain before it becomes a problem
Fortunately, there is a solution. Resistance training significantly reduces the severity of muscle loss and helps prevent excess weight gain. If you’re over 50 and not regularly engaging in some form of resistance training, there are some easy ways to get started. Book a session with a Personal Trainer and get them to show you around the weights area of your gym. Group fitness classes like Body Pump and Pilates also incorporate resistance training and might be a good place to start if you’re unsure about what exercises to do. Just let the instructor know you’re a newbie before the class starts so they can keep an eye on you.
If you’re just beginning or coming back to exercise, a good place to start is by reading our training tips for women over 55. And remember the basics: eat well, move more, lift more.
If you're interested in seeing a Fernwood Personal Trainer, make an enquiry at your local club. If you're interested in trying a Body Pump or Pilates class, you can find the group fitness timetables for all Fernwood gyms online.