Ahh, menopause—the gift that keeps on giving... hot flashes, mood swings and, yes, extra fat, particularly around your midsection. At least you’re in good company: One study showed that all women gained some ab fat after menopause. Aging is partly to blame—even men pack on pounds during middle age — but estrogen specifically plays a role in how women’s bodies store and distribute fat. When hormone levels drop post-menopause, for example, two enzymes that make and store fat become more active. Another big issue: Women tend to lose 1 to 2 percent of their muscle mass per year after age 50, which slows metabolism. In fact, women burned 32 percent less fat after menopause compared to their premenopausal sisters, according to one trial. And sleep problems, which many menopausal women experience, can trigger a domino effect that contributes to weight gain, too.
Happily, there’s a big BUT (pardon the awful pun): Even with multiple factors working against you, studies show weight gain isn’t inevitable. Along with watching what you eat, exercise is essential. Do your cardio (walking, swimming), and add weight training to build and maintain calorie-torching muscle mass. Three training sessions a week for 16 weeks increased menopausal women’s resting metabolism and daily burn by 110 calories a day, while a control group burned 70 fewer calories, according to one study. And, while hormone therapy isn’t used as weight loss treatment, it has been shown to help shed menopause-related belly fat. Be sure to talk with your health care provider if menopausal symptoms are interfering with your quality of life.
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