Does Menopause Cause Weight Gain?
Do changing hormones doom you to gaining weight or can you stop it from happening?
If you're a post-menopausal woman and are struggling to prevent weight gain, you may wonder if there's anything you can really do or if your hormones and metabolism are to blame.
Why does menopause cause weight gain?
There's no doubt that metabolism typically slows about 5 - 10% each decade as you age. But although metabolism and hormonal changes play a role, the primary cause of weight gain in post-menopausal women results from being less physically active as you age.
One of the best ways to prevent weight gain after menopause is to increase physical activity. The more you move, the more calories you burn and the more you help boost your metabolism. Include the following types of activities in your routine:
- Aerobic exercise. Whether you choose to walk briskly, jog, bike, row or climb stairs, aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity on most days of the week.
- Strength training. Weight lifting or resistance training 2 or 3 times a week helps increase muscle mass. Having more muscle helps increase your metabolic rate.
- NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Studies show that in addition to regular exercise, metabolism is affected by everyday "non-sitting" activities. These can include things like cleaning your house, tapping your toes or pacing while on the phone.
Of course, exercise alone is not enough to prevent weight gain. Limiting junk food, sugar and white flour, increasing fruit and veggie intake, and eating moderate portions of healthy meals and snacks are all positive dietary strategies. And when it comes to your diet, it's not all about eating less. Research has shown the following habits to be damaging to metabolism:
- Eating too few calories. Your body tries to conserve fat if your calorie intake drops too low. And if you lose weight by slashing calories too much, you'll lose muscle along with fat. Less muscle reduces calorie burn.
- Skimping on protein. Eating protein boosts your metabolism more than eating carbohydrates or fats. Protein also helps maintain and build muscle mass.
The bottom line? You're not doomed to gain weight once you reach menopause. A well-rounded diet along with plenty of exercise will help keep post-menopausal pounds at bay.
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Date Last Reviewed: May 8, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Eileen Engle, MD