Menopause is often linked to hot flashes, no periods, and vaginal dryness. Women who enter the menopause period also have to deal with weight gain. Whether you are 15 or 50, it is important to maintain a healthy weight. But weight gain during menopause is something that can be difficult to fight off, considering there are so many reasons behind all that fat. But don’t lose heart, because you can lose weight. You just need to have a list of exercises that can help you tackle weight gain during menopause.
Health Shots reached out to Dr Teji Dawane, Senior Consultant, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Whitefield, Bengaluru, and Mumbai-based celebrity coach and athlete Rohit Nair to explore the relationship between menopause and weight.
Causes of weight gain during menopause
Weight gain during menopause is a common effect that happens because of various factors. These factors include:
1. Hormonal changes
During menopause, the production of estrogen and progesterone sees a major drop. Estrogen plays a key role in regulating body fat, and the decline in this hormone leads to an increase in abdominal fat, says Dr Dawane. This change in fat distribution can contribute to weight gain in women during menopause.
With age, it is quite normal and natural for metabolism to slow down. This reduced metabolic rate means the body burns fewer calories at rest, making it easier to gain weight.
3. Muscle mass
As women age, there is a gradual loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia which means muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, so a decrease in muscle mass can further contribute to a reduced metabolic rate and weight gain, says Dr Dawane.
4. Insulin resistance
There is a chance that women might become more insulin resistant during menopause, leading to higher blood sugar levels. They have a higher likelihood of storing excess calories as fat.
5. Lifestyle changes
Menopause is often accompanied by significant life changes, such as retirement, children leaving home or increased stress. These changes can influence dietary 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, subsequently, weight gain.
Dr Dawane says that 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 in the menopause stage.
Tips to lose weight during menopause
Losing weight during menopause can be challenging, but a combination of regular exercise and a balanced diet can help, says Nair. Here’s what you can do to shed the extra kilos:
1. Cardiovascular exercises
Keep yourself busy with activities that can get your heart rate up. So, you can do jogging, brisk walking, cycling, swimming or even dancing. Cardio workouts help to burn calories and improve overall cardiovascular health.
2. Strength training
Do exercises like squats, lunges push-ups to build muscle mass. Increased muscle mass is good for you as it can help to boost metabolism and burn more calories even at rest.
Pilates focuses on core strength and stability, which can help with posture, balance and toning muscles, says Nair.
Exercises to avoid during menopause
During menopause, you might not only experience certain physical changes, but also health concerns. These might 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 stress on the joints, which might lead to increased risk of injury or exacerbate joint problems that can be common during menopause.
2. Heavy weight lifting
While strength training is beneficial, heavy lifting without proper form and supervision can strain the joints and increase the risk of injuries, especially if there are existing joint or bone health issues, says Nair.
3. Extreme or intense workouts
Overdoing high-intensity exercises or pushing the body too hard can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which might interfere with hormonal balance during menopause.
4. Exercise in extreme temperatures
During menopause, women might 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 might experience pelvic floor weakness during menopause, and traditional abdominal exercises like crunches can put additional strain on the pelvic region, potentially worsening pelvic floor issues.
While you pick the right exercise for weight loss, don’t forget to eat healthy.