Middle-age spread – it’s inevitable as you get older. Or is it? The reality is the average male gains about a pound every year between age 35 and age 60 – and women gain even more. But there’s a way to limit the damage from middle-age weight gain – by staying active. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily helps ward off an expanding waistline.
The Battle against Middle-Age Spread: Can You Win It?
Researchers used tracked over 2,500 healthy men and women for 20 years, taking note of their exercise habits and how much weight they gained as they transitioned from young adulthood to middle-age.
As might be expected, they put on weight as the years went by. But men who were active during this transition gained 5.7 pounds less than those who were more sedentary – and women lost 13.4 fewer pounds over the 20 year period when they were active. Both sexes gained less in their waistline too – the classic sign of middle-age spread.
Why Do People Get Middle-Age Weight Gain?
Middle-age spread is a product of declining growth hormone levels and the gradual loss of muscle mass that comes with age. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so loss of muscle tissue reduces metabolism. Many people become less active as they get older, which also contributes to middle-age weight gain.
What does this mean? You may not be able to completely prevent weight gain as you age since even the most active people gained small amounts of weight over the 20 year study, but you can limit the amount by doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
The best kind of exercise to reduce middle-age spread? This study didn’t address that issue, but a combination of aerobic and resistance training effectively burns fat and preserves lean body mass, which benefits metabolism. Adding intervals of high-intensity exercise boosts growth hormone levels and prevents adaptation to exercise, where the body becomes so efficient that it burns fewer calories during a workout. Changing a routine every 4 to 6 weeks also helps.
Middle-Age Weight Gain and Middle-Age Spread: The Bottom Line?
Don’t let those extra pounds of body fat sneak up on you as you age. Make time for 30 minutes of exercise a day. It’s worth it when you can still fit into your “skinny” jeans when you turn 55.
Family Practice News. January 2011. Page 6.