Research has shown that both cardio activity and resistance training affect body composition and abdominal fat distribution, so you will want to move more than you have been due to your slowed metabolism, and do some weightlifting. Notice I did NOT say bodybuilding.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article on the link between exercise and sexual health, which included this statement: “ In Australia, researchers looked at the relationship between exercise, body mass index (BMI) and menopausal symptoms to see if the first two had an effect on the latter (Mirzaiinjmabadi, Anderson & Barnes 2006). The findings should be welcome news to women wishing to relieve symptoms of menopause…”
Before I turned 50, I took only iron for anemia. Now that I’m on THIS side of the age scale, I find myself trying other supplements too. As I’m not interested in prescription meds for a natural event (excepting the epidural I had during childbirth), I look to plant-based remedies and exercise.
Research also supports exercise as a way to relieve stress, stabilize mood swings that come with hormonal changes, and improve overall quality of life. However, no studies yet conclude that exercise can resolve sleep interruption or hot flashes. Hey, if I’m going to get hot and sweaty anyway, why not do it when a cute workout outfit, a good playlist, and calorie burning are involved?
Kymberly: My story is short and universal: I enjoyed a lifetime as an active, lean, fit person who never had weight issues. Then menopause hit and I gained 30 ell-bees in a blink, despite having better eating habits than when young, a regular exercise program, and professional knowledge about how menopause affects women.
Don’t get me wrong. I am still one of the healthiest people I know. Still active; still happy and confident; still a qualified group fitness leader. With a menopot and a closet full of blouses that gap between the buttons! Who knows what I am talking about?
I continue to recommend exercise as one of the best ways to get through menopause — well, through life in general! Specifically, get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes minimum of high intensity aerobic activity each week. Certainly more minutes spread throughout the week is even better. But these minimum targets are doable and effective. We’re talking just 22 minutes per day. Jog in place during tv commercials if need be. I can knock out 15 minutes during the halftime of a UEFA Champions soccer game! Taking my princess privileged poochie for a daily dog walk tacks on another 45 minutes at least.
Perhaps more critical for weight loss purposes is to strength train all major muscles at least twice a week. Strength training becomes MORE, not less important we age. Added bonus: resistance training and weight bearing activities (such as jogging, treadmill walking, but NOT swimming, for example) slow bone loss after menopause, which lowers the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.Some additional good news about menopause and exercise — we also reduce our risk of breast cancer.
Hmm, I probably could increase the frequency and intensity of my strength training program as I have slacked off a bit the last few years. Just a thought. No wait – I mean just an ACTION!
For more thoughts and a story you might relate to, check out Managing Weight as You Age, by Jody Goldenfield.
Action: Subscribe to our YouTube channel and blog if you want to show menopause who’s boss. We’ll come to you twice a week with realistic tips to help you enjoy the second half of life as much as possible. Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes and grab your bonus while you’re at it.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: Another popular way people ask us this question is “How do I get Michelle Obama arms?” Either way, we have suggestions for you. The best way to control “tricep flap” is with long-sleeved shirts! Or do you mean a more permanent solution? Velcro, for example. We call the triceps the “bye-bye muscle.” You wave bye-bye. You stop. It doesn’t.
Kymberly: Just like Alexandra’s humormongering at a party. Ahh haaa haa Good one, eh? “Tricep flap” is so easy to address I am surprised it has run out of control in epidemic proportions (just like all those flappers who whirled themselves into a tizzy in the Twenties). Strength train the triceps. Then give a twirl and whirl to the single weight triceps extension Alexandra shows in our YouTube video. Feel encouraged to subscribe to our Fun and Fit channel if you’d like more moves designed for women over 50.
However, much as I love my sis, I actually prefer the following moves for triceps: tricep kickbacks–kind of like political life and funding flaps in certain countries; or triceps overhead extensions–what many people could use with their mortgages; or triceps push-ups– Similar to chest push ups, but with the arms narrower and elbows tucked next to the rib cage throughout the exercise. Yes, keep your arms parallel to your body. If you have not done this move before, start with the knees on the ground.
And if, diplomatically saying that if you were carrying any extra fat globules in the arm area, well… time for some cardio and general strength training of the major muscles. You want to reduce fat with an overall exercise program while strength training the triceps. Let those triceps babies show their fulsomeness. No longer need they hide under any fat. Of course, no longer need they be ignored either. Kind of like what people might want to do to Alexandra’s jokes at that same party.
Alexandra: What party? Just because you left town and I got all the cute guys to myself. Yup, just me and my sleeveless shirt. And my lack of wingspan, as a friend calls the triceps (okay, my imaginary friend). Another way to control tricep flap is with an air-control tower. By this I mean, control the amount of air-speed created by those flappers. “What… is your quest?” “To seek the Holy Triceps.” “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen tricep?” “What do you mean, an African or European tricep?” “Huh? I…I don’t know that.” (Bioioioioing, extra flap just thrown over). This Monty Python digression has been brought to you by an exercise called the “Skull Crusher,” which Fun and Fit feel is a very Pythonesque name. See, I did get around to the “bye-bye muscle” by and by.
Oh, and we also got around to another post that will give you more ideas to get great arms. Click to laugh and to access.
Readers: To whom and what would you love to say “bye-bye?”
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Wonder how to lose menopause weight when eating less and exercising more hasn’t made a difference? Then you are in good company. Or at least Alexandra and I are in good company, as we get this request regularly from our group fitness class members, blog readers, and midlife friends. (Or would that be Bad Company, as we Run with the [NOT Six] Pack? I am cracking myself up here). Heck, I have this same frustration and know all the tricks of the trade. Or at least I thought I did. But it turns out even I, with over 30 years as a certified fitness professional had more to learn about dealing with menopause and the dreaded belly fat that puts the mid in midlife middles.
Yup, that’s how good the experts were for the recent TransformAging Summit we hosted. (Click that link to see what the summit offered). When fitness specialists, Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson presented their webinars, they shared Fun Fit Facts about hormones, strength training, and weight gain. Their strategies will help those of us wanting to get back our waistlines. But first we need to know what we are dealing with.
Test your knowledge on the role hormones play as we age when you take our quick quiz. The questions are culled from Debra and Tamara’s sessions. Once you put into action their suggestions, you will be able to:
That’s their promise, and I believe them. Perhaps more important than whether I believe (insert here some hallelujahs sistuhs and sistuhs) is that they base their comments on science and evidence. So it’s really a question of ACTION.
From “Resistance Training: Your Easy After 50 Weight Management Program,” presented by Debra Atkinson of voiceforfitness.com (We definitely encourage you to visit Debra and Tamara’s respective websites once you are done getting all the answers right to our quiz).
A. 25 B. 35 C. 45
T or F?
A. calories in (food) B. calories out (exercise and movement) C. hormones
A. Inside the gym lifting weights B. Outside the gym not lifting
T or F?
How are you doing so far? Are you getting the hint of what will help you regain your younger figure?
From “Midlife Weight Gain, Hormones, and Menopot: Strategies for Staying Slim Without Losing Your Sanity,” presented by Tamara Grand, PhD of fitknitchick.com (Yup, we still urge you to hop over to Tamara and Debra’s websites to access more great ways to reach your fitness goals).
A. Experiencing more stress in midlife
B. Less movement with each passing year
C. Lower calorie requirement as we age
D. All of the above
E. None of the above. Quit looking for excuses.
A. 25 % B. 35% C. 50%
A. 25% B. 50% C. 75%
A. Middle aged men B. Middle aged women C. Both genders after 65 years of age
A. reduce menopause symptoms
B. boost metabolic rate long term
C. reduce stress levels
D. burn calories
No wonder we gain weight as we hit our fifties! Tell us how you did in the comments below. Brag for sure. Or let us know what surprised you the most. Are you ready to start strength training, eat fewer simple carbs, and take a walk? EmPHAsis on the strength training part, by the way.
Want more guidance, direction, and motivation? Debra’s session offers two ten minute resistance routines that are easy and effective. Tamara has simple “To Do” lists tailored to midlife women. Click to see how you can get their whole presentations and the four other webinars from the TransformAging Summit for less than the cost of a new pair of bigger pants …with an elastic waistband. Not that I’ve done that or anything….
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
PS. Did you want the answers?
1. A 2. T 3. C 4. B 5. T 6. D (Aren’t you glad it wasn’t E?) 7. B 8. C 9. B 10. B
PPS. Rancho la Puerta kindly sponsored our TransformAging Summit. If you are fortunate enough to book a trip there, you’ll find the perfect place to get stronger, leaner, and balanced!
Dear Alexandra and Kymberly: I just lost my husband, Julian to cancer. Due to all the hospital appointments, my eating habits also got lost! I have put on a lot of weight, but feel so tired and lethargic I can’t get into the mood to do exercise. I have damage to my neck, knees, and lower back (due to a fall) plus my midriff and waist have become “large” and I have lost my waistline. At 69 years young this is depressing me. I am also worried about a “ledge” at the bottom of my tummy and scared it will be “resting” on the top of my legs when I sit down!!!
As well, I look after my 96 year young Mum, who has no balance anymore due to cancer and other problems. So she is only able very slowly to get from one room to another downstairs. I get to bed about 1:30am once my Mum’s medication kicks in and she falls asleep. She usually wakes me about 7am to go to the toilet, then goes back to bed until 10:00. (She is in a hospital bed in my living room so isn’t able to get up by herself). I have been looking after my Mum for 3 years and my husband for the last 2 and half, so have had little sleep etc. which may be the reason I feel tired. Since Julian died, I am still running around for Mum, but not doing the right things to lose the “middle” weight.
I need all the help I can get!! I appreciate other people’s input so have included my name. Kindest regards, Patricia of Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom
Dear Patricia: Wow! Talk about the perfect storm for changes to your body, mood, and energy levels! We’re amazed and honored you have time to write to us for advice. Fortunately, we have some practical suggestions that may help you and other widows, post menopausal women, and caregivers gain energy and lose weight. (Check out what we told caregivers who wrote to us with similar concerns: A Workout Plan to Lose Weight When You Are a Caregiver)
If you have a weensy bit more time and energy, then click over go to our YouTube Channel where you can find exercises just right for your goals and capabilities.
Let us know how you fare and feel free to comment below, especially once others share their tips and support. We offer our condolences on your husband’s death.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
Action Item: Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box in the right sidebar.
A 56 year old reader asks how to quickly get back into shape in time for a two-piece vacation:
Usually I’m in fairly good shape (for my age). I had a really hectic last year with a big work project and it threw me off my game (white flour and sugar became my boyfriend). I probably have about 30 pounds to lose. A normal fun day for me used to be a 25 mile ride followed by a couple of hours of kayaking. I did do a 12 mile hike at sea level a few weeks ago and did fine. I just started walking 4-6 miles, 3-4 times a week. I have access to a fabulous gym and am willing to do whatever there. I enjoy weight training and am familiar with most of the moves.
My eating is not too messy. I’m a vegetable and fruit junkie and am fine without meat. The bread I buy is 100% whole grain and I look for high fiber. Oatmeal or eggs with toast is my usual breakfast. I don’t drink alcohol, sodas of any kind, fruit juices or sports beverages. It’s only coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day. My one vice is coconut milk French Vanilla creamer. It’s almost non-negotiable!!
Kimberly, Lake Tahoe, CA of fiftyjewels.com
Alexandra: Wow, that is pretty detailed. You sound quite healthy, so perhaps it’s a matter of some tweaks to your exercise regimen and diet, not major changes.
Write down everything you are eating, and I mean everything, including 2 sips of wine, 1 bite of Ben & Jerry’s, and 3 almonds. Just the awareness of what you’re eating will create change. You need to find out where you are sabotaging yourself, as oatmeal and eggs aren’t the issue, and you already seem knowledgeable about the hidden sugars/ calories in fruit juice.
Once you’ve tracked your food choices for 3 days, look through your list to see what you can eliminate without obsessing or getting into a battle with yourself. Be aware that a 350 kcal Ding Dong won’t give you the energy, satiety or nutrients that two 390 kcal stalks of celery with peanut butter will. As your creamer is important to you, keep it. I suspect you will need to look at portion sizes more than food choices.
People who are successful at keeping weight off after weight loss aim for 1.5 – 2 pounds loss per week. Thirty divided by 7 weeks is 4 pounds per week. Probably not sustainable in the long run, but if you get a deficit of 14,000 calories per week, you can do it. I do not recommend or endorse this solution. As the possessor of an advanced counseling degree, I’m all about the positive, not the negative, and I’d rather see you feel successful about losing a realistic 15 pounds than unsuccessful if you aim for 30 and reach 15. Can you get a 7,000 per week deficit?
Kymberly: Well, Kimberly, not only do we share a name, but also a similar dilemma. Like you, I have always been active, am 56, and gained 30 pounds in the last few years even though I eat more healthfully than ever before. So I hear you … except that part about wearing a bikini! One-pieces are my friend.
My sister’s key tips are intake focused. My suggestions are output oriented. You need to sub in high intensity interval training at least twice a week and get busy with that strength training that you are fortunate to already value.
Walks are great, (and what I can manage while I await surgery for some knee issues). In your case, you need to change things up as you walk. Get specific cardio plans for weight loss here and here. Basically you need to alternate your long, steady state walks with shorter, heart pounding interval hikes that push your heart rate as high as you can safely tolerate for about 2-3 minutes, then level out. Repeat several times. Push yourself by climbing a steep hill, either outdoors or on cardio equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical. Pick up the pace for a power walk. Strap on a backpack that is loaded and walk hard and fast. If you are kayaking, paddle as if sprinting for a finish line.
Find routes, exercise modes, and paces that vary so you constantly force your body to adapt upwards to the new demands. Alternate the long, semi-comfy routes with shorter, harder ones.
As we age, strength training gets more, not less important. While overloading all major muscles at least two times a week is fantastic, you need to aim for at least three times per week given your time frame and goals. Instead of performing single joint, isolated moves (such as hamstring curls) do multi-joint, or compound exercises, such as squats or lunges.
Since you like resistance training, try this Tabata workout from our friend Tamara Grand. It’s a high intensity, low impact routine that will give your metabolism a calorie-burning jolt.
Alexandra and Kymberly:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Not only will you be sleeping instead of eating late-night snacks, you will also be giving the hormones leptin and ghrelin time to do their work. You already know about Sugar. Now you know about Sleep. The other “S” is Stress, which you discovered was an issue during that big work project. Consider listening to meditation music or words while you’re on those walks.
In fact, meditation has just been shown to help with losing weight– pretty exciting stuff, right??!! — so consider adding even 5 minutes of meditation or guided visualization to your day. Our meditation post was written before the recent research on meditation aiding weight loss. Click though, as you will find some good ways to begin a practice.
Alexandra: Choose from above the activities and methods that work for you and that you will actually do. Maybe you’ll enjoy a dance class. Maybe you’ll prefer to do high intensity interval training by yourself in the weight room. Maybe you’ll change the timing of when you eat that fruit.
And of course, take a look at a few of our previous posts that help answer your question:
Lose 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks
Best Workouts to Burn Fat
Do You Have a Stuck Metabolism?
Keep us posted on your progress, as we’d love to help you celebrate your successes. Besides, research has proven that making your goals public increases your chances of success. Okay, I just snuck Accountability in as bonus Tip #7.
Now we’re off to locate our swimsuits for all those hikes we’ll do in Hawaii when we sneak ourselves along on your vacation.
Call to Action: Take your own vacay twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email in the right column or above and start reaching your active aging goals starting …. whenever you take our advice!
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
HURRY! Just one more week to get our FREE booklet, 34 Guilt Free Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain. Subscribe to our blog now.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Incorporate the following 3 “activities” into your life to enter 2015 with less — less weight, less stress, less mental clutter. Each supports and interacts with the others.
Use meditation to better understand your relationship to food, exercise, and stress. For example, meditation can assist weight loss efforts by reducing emotional eating, binge eating — basically any kind of eating that is not mindful. Meditators generally have higher consciousness of their thoughts and actions. They therefore make better decisions regarding health choices.
Guided Meditation Apps
If you are eager to get started with meditation, try the free meditation apps listed in our post: Meditation, Menopause, and Memory.
2. Sleep Sufficiently
Several studies link lack of enough sleep with obesity. For one, if you are getting only 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night, instead of the recommended 7 to 9 you are awake more hours slugging down extra snicky snacks.
For another, sleep deprived brains tend to make poor decisions. “Yes, I neeeed that high calorie, sugary late night treat. I deserve it. The calories disappear after midnight just like Cinderella’s coach and horses.” Uh huh. Let me also ask — do you feel like working out when you are tired?
Too little sleep also affects the hormones that regulate appetite and fat storage. The little gremlin, ghrelin whispers a naughty message more to the sleep deprived — “you are hungry. Eat, my pretty, eat.” Simultaneously, leptin the lambkin that usually cues you to back away from the fork, goes to sleep on the undernapped.
Still awake? Then read our post on how insufficient sleep causes weight gain.
3. Breathe “Actively and Energetically”
Breathe Your Way to Less: Less Food, Less Weight, Less Stress
Active breathing simply means paying attention to your in- and exhalations. No judgment, no expectations. Just be aware of your breaths. Energetic breathing is short and fast. Inhalations are forceful and through the nose. Expand your belly as you inhale. Exhale with equal force, contracting your belly.
Use energetic breaths as a natural, zero calorie picker upper instead of food, caffeine, or other quick fixes to gain energy. Breathing energetically stimulates your central nervous system the way exercise does — first by elevating, then calming you.
With both kinds of breaths, you are building self-awareness and interrupting unconscious patterns that may not be serving you. Become a better breather by inhaling the info in our post, Breathe Life Into Yourself.
True — meditating, sleeping more, and breathing with intent alone will not directly cause calories to burn faster than holiday buns baked too long and hot. However, combined with everything else you are doing to keep weight at bay, these 3 tools can be part of your powerful arsenal as you wrap up the holiday season, the year .. and maybe a few gifts too.
Give a gift to yourself. Join us at the Tenaya Wellness Spa Retreat coming up faster than energetic breaths. Jan 16-19 in Yosemite. Click to see the sessions, treatments, meals, and more that you will get as their guest. BONUS – we’ll meet each other as we are presenting workouts and wellness sessions. Wonder whether you are doing common exercises correctly … or um, well, stoopidly? Eager to take a cutting edge ABC: Abs, Butt, Core workout? You get it all at the Tenaya wellness weekend.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
All of the following, seemingly contradictory statements are true … depending on …. your goal. Ready to mix and match with more style than when you are in a Macy’s dressing room? GO! (Answers at the end of the post). And when you see a link, click on it for more detailed scoop on each action and benefit.
A. Cardio training – of any type — is best.
B. Strength training is more critical than cardio activity, especially for baby boomer women.
C. As you enter midlife, you need to incorporate 7 specific movement habits into your cardio workouts to get the best results.
E. As few as 10 minutes of high intensity training per day is sufficient.
F. Make sure to include resistance training, aerobic exercise, and stretching in your workout program at least 2-3 times per week.
G. Aim first for Amount of movement; Next for Type of activity; then for Intensity of exercise level
H. Go as long as you can, as hard as you can, as often as you can.
Which numbered goal below goes with which lettered advice above?
Bottom line if you forget everything? (Well, that means you aren’t performing any cardio, because you just read that cardio enhances memory). Anyway, if nothing else, simply remember that doing something is almost always better than doing nothing when it comes to accruing health benefits. And the more fitness benefits you want out of your movement, the more frequency, attention, and effort you have to commit to.
Commit to follow us, up hill, down dale, over the pale. Subscribe now if you haven’t yet, and get FREE our booklet, 34 Guilt Free Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain. Get insider fitness advice all year!
To make it easy to share (and because I want to increase my Pinterest skills), I made a nice easy pin of our 10 tips to avoid holiday weight gain that you can access at the next big get-together.
As we’ve mentioned before, if you incorporate more movement into your daily activities, you can successfully lose weight (or keep weight from jumping on to your body in the first place). So it sure would be nice if house cleaning fell into the “watch those kcals just fall off my body” category, wouldn’t it? (PS It’s also nice if you want to subscribe and get active aging answers from certified fitness pros twice a week).
Good news for all of us who have worked up a sweat changing the bedsheets, vacuuming the rugs, and dusting the ceilings (please don’t say I’m the only person who does this) – according to a recent study in the U.K., a good spring cleaning can burn more calories than running a marathon. Since I hate to run marathons, this is welcome news indeed!
According to the study (done by promotionalcodes.org.uk), a good spring cleaning burns 3,655 kcals, while a marathon burns 2,500 – 3,500. Yes, it will take you longer to do the cleaning than the running, but look on the bright side – you didn’t have to run. This is the breakdown:
Quick math tells me that’s 16 hours of work. And I see no category for jumping onto the mattresses when you discover spiders lurking under the bed. I’m sure there’s a high calorie burn for that. I can testify that my heart rate was definitely in the “Working Very Hard” range.
Cleaning external doors isn’t my thing, though I do scrub down the area by the doorknobs. I’d also love to see the calorie count for scrubbing all the kitchen cabinets plus the stove hood and kitchen walls, mainly because I want credit for these chores. Does sweeping count as part of scrubbing?
So, who’s up for 20 minutes on the stairs? And who thinks this is good news? I know I’m excited, though I doubt I’ll pull on my Lorna Jane gear and put out a 16 hour house chore workout. And how many calories did I burn getting all the dog hairs off the mini-trampoline?
Action: Another easy and free action is to have us come to you twice a week. Not to clean, mind you. But to share tips on how to age actively and enjoy the second half of life. SUBSCRIBE now and grab your bonus while you’re at it. Also, could you get that dust bunny from my corner when you’re done entering your email?
Alexandra Williams, MA