Midlife Weight Gain

I am almost 40 and am wondering what physiological changes I may experience in the next few years. Will my metabolism slow down, will I gain weight?

As you progress through mid-life you will find your metabolism does slow down. You will need fewer calories to maintain the same weight--about 400-500 less by the time you are eighty. This and the tendency to decrease physical activity in mid-life contributes to weight gain. In addition, weight gain will tend to be concentrated more in the lower body--the lower abdomen, hips, buttocks and thighs. The average woman will gain one to two pounds per year.

But, weight gain is not inevitable. You can maintain a constant weight with an appropriate plan of diet and exercise. This is important, especially for women, as one study found that increased weight between the ages of thirty and fifty was the single greatest risk factor for breast cancer, later on in life.

In mid-life, how and when you eat may be as important as how much. One study showed that mid-life women who consumed their calories in about six small meals had faster metabolisms and lower weights than their counterparts who ate three large meals. Eating earlier in the day as opposed to later also allows you to consume the same amount of calories with less stored as fat. And, as always, if less of your calories are from fat, then you will tend to be thinner.

Regular aerobic exercise is a way to boost your metabolic rate and counteract the slowing due to aging. It lowers your risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis, as well. Even if you haven't had an exercise program up to now, you can benefit. While cardiovascular fitness will improve with as little as twenty minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, forty-five minutes per day is necessary to make an impact on weight.

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