Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Losing Weight in Midlife: One Step at a Time

Exercise. Weight loss. If those two phrases strike fear into your heart or fill you with guilt, you’re definitely not alone. We’re bombarded with research telling us that exercising in midlife helps to stave off heart disease, stroke, dementia, perhaps cancer. Also, maintaining a healthy weight range helps too. But that doesn’t necessarily make us more likely to get off the couch now, does it?

Don’t worry. There is hope. And it’s not quite as difficult as you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the research.

Stop Feeling Guilty over Gaining Weight
There’s no doubt that many people at midlife struggle with weight gain. However, there’s no point feeling guilty about it because it’s not anything you’ve done wrong. It’s just what happens, especially for women.

A comprehensive review in late 2012 by the International Menopause Society found that menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight. Nevertheless,  the hormonal changes at this time are associated with a change in the way fat is distributed, which leads to more belly fat. Irrespective of whether women do or do not gain weight at midlife following menopause, women experience a change in their fat stores to their abdomen because of a drop in estrogen.

Of course, the review’s authors also emphasised the need for keeping weight gain in check because it is part of staying healthy as we age.

Health in Midlife: Not just about Weight Loss

But weight loss isn’t the be all and end all. That takes the pressure off a bit, doesn’t it? Instead, a combination of ‘healthy behaviours’ is a better approach  (which of course makes it both less and more difficult.)

A current study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that engaging in a combination of healthy behaviours, such as not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, exercise and eating fruits and vegetables daily makes it significantly more likely people will stay healthy as they age.

“Successful ageing” was defined as maintaining the ability to function well with cognitive skills, respiratory function, good mobility, mental health and no chronic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or disability at age 60 years and above. The study’s authors found that although individual healthy behaviours are moderately associated with successful ageing, their combined impact is substantial.

One Step at a Time

Of course, there’s still the problem of how to start these ‘healthy behaviours’ — or more importantly, how to maintain them. Recent research from the US suggests it might be as simple as the number of steps you take a day.

Moving 6,000 or more steps a day — no matter how — adds up to a healthier life for women, particularly in their midlife.  That level of physical activity decreases the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a diabetes precursor and a risk for cardiovascular disease), according to a study published in ‘Menopause’, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.

Although other studies show the value of structured exercise in lowering health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, this study showed that habitual physical activity — whether it came from exercising or activities of daily living — has the power to improve women’s health.

Active women (those who took 6,000 steps or more) in the study were much less likely to be obese, have metabolic syndrome or frank diabetes (whether or not they had menopause and whether or not they used therapy) than the inactive ones

It seems the path to weight loss and healthier living in midlife might begin with 6,000 steps!

Sharon Freeman is an Australian freelance writer and blogger.  She loves coaching, speaking and reviewing companies