Perimenopause: PT shares why women gain weight & the ‘fantastic’ exercises to combat it

GP talks about the impact of the menopause on weight gain

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Putting on weight unexpectedly can be devastating for women during perimenopause – but this does not have to be out of their control. Personal trainer and Fiona Hawker told readers why weight gain is a reality during this particular period, and how women can combat it through exercise.

Fiona explained that “fluctuating hormones” are to blame for weight gain during perimenopause.

She exclusively told “That contributes to the slowing down of the metabolic rate, which can in turn impact how the body distributes and stores fat.”

Women going through this transitional period are particularly prone to gaining weight around their middle, according to the expert.

But why does this weight gain happen?

“As you age, from around age 40, you start to lose muscle, and losing muscle mass slows your metabolism,” adding, “that’s how fast you can burn your calories”.

Consequently, “you don’t need as many calories as you did when you were a teenager”.

Moreover, perimenopausal women “release an awful lot more of a stress hormone cortisol, which actually encourages much more fatty deposition around the the abdominal area”.

She continued: “It makes it a little bit more difficult for women in that stage of life to maintain a healthy weight, especially if they continue eating like they always have and don’t increase their physical activity.”

But hope is not lost, as Fiona exclusively told readers how they can lose weight during perimenopause with particular exercises they can do at home.

“The best exercises for women going through perimenopause, menopause and post menopause is a combination of cardio training – so anything that elevates your heart rate – and strength training.”

For the best chance at fat loss, Fiona recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, including two strength training sessions.

Moderate intensity exercise could be something as simple as gardening, whilst running and squash would be considered high intensity – requiring only 75 minutes per week.

Fiona revealed that one type of exercise is especially essential: “Strength training is particularly important for women at this time of life because there’s a reduction in oestrogen and that’s a really important hormone for bone density.”

She went on to dispel a common misconception: “When you think of strength training, yes, you can think about gyms with weights, dumbbells, kettlebells and resistance bands.

“But strength training is really is making your body lift a weight that’s more than what it’s used to.”

Therefore, for those nervous about hitting the gym, bodyweight exercises are just as useful when it comes to weight loss during perimenopause.

She stated: “I have to say, as much as I don’t enjoy them, burpees are one of the most fantastic exercises because it combines a push up, a jump and a squat all in one.

“But lunges, squats, planks and push ups are brilliant exercises for activating a lot of different muscles; they’re called compound exercises because they work lots and lots of different muscles in the body at the same time.”

She continued: “The beauty of strength training is that the exercises are full body.”

For women just starting out, Fiona recommends doing three sets of 15 repetitions of each exercise.

One last tip that the expert provided was that women should pick exercises they “enjoy” – “you’re more likely to do it, because it doesn’t feel like a chore”.

Fiona Hawker is a personal trainer at Curves gym. 

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