By virtue of genetics, women have higher percentages of body fat than men, and that percentage only increases as they grow older. According to MayoClinic.com, “body fat tends to shift from the arms, legs and hips to the abdomen” in women as they age, especially after menopause. Fortunately, you can take everyday measures to combat the natural process and maintain a physique of which you can feel proud.
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It’s not uncommon for aging women to experience gains in belly fat even if they don’t gain weight in other areas of their bodies. After a woman hits middle age, her estrogen levels begin to decrease, and those levels may determine where fat appears on the body. Genetics also plays a role, so if your mother or grandmother gradually gained weight in the midsection as she aged, the same thing may be likely to happen to you. Finally, the percentage of lean muscle mass in women’s bodies decreases as they grow older. Because muscle mass has an influence on metabolic rate and calorie burn, losing it can make harder for you to stay at a healthy weight.
Gaining weight in your midsection is more than just an annoyance. If you pick up enough abdominal fat as you age, your risk for serious health problems can markedly increase. MayoClinic.com reports that women with waist measurements of 35 inches or more are at an elevated risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, premature death and several types of cancer.
Eating healthfully and getting regular exercise are two of the best prevention methods to avoid weight gain in your midsection. According to Harvard Health Publications, 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity daily cardio exercise is enough to combat and reduce belly fat. Examples include jogging, biking or even brisk walking. Strength training can also help because it guards your body against losing as much lean muscle mass as it might otherwise. Aim for two or three weekly strength training sessions. During each, you can lift weights, work with resistance bands, use weight machines or do calisthenic exercises.
If you’ve recently gained a lot of weight in your midsection or you are already overweight, it’s wise to make an appointment with your doctor to talk over how you can combat the effects of shifting weight as you age. Your doctor may suggest you follow a specific type of diet or exercise regimen, especially if you’re already at a high risk of developing any chronic health conditions.